June 9, 2021: SS. PRIMUS AND FELICIAN
June 9, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF SS. PRIMUS AND FELICIAN, MARTYRS
O ye brave veterans of the Lord's battles, teach us what energy we must bring to the service of God, whatsoever be our age. Ye came late in life, to the knowledge of the Gospel and of those inestimable treasures promised to the Christian. But in holy Baptism your youth was renewed as that of the eagle, and, for thirty years, the Holy Ghost continued to produce rich fruits in you. When, in extreme old age, the hour of final victory at last sounded, your courage was equal to that of the most vigorous warriors.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we may always follow the example of thy holy Martyrs Primus and Felicianus, and by their prayers daily experience their protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
Roses and lilies are exquisitely alternated in the wreath woven by centuries, for the Bride of the Son of God. Though the world be heedless of the fact, it is none the less true, that everything here below has but one object, namely to bedeck the Church with the attractive charms of heaven, to adjust her jewelled robes formed of the virtues of her Saints, that she may be fitted to take her seat beside her Divine Spouse, in the highest Heavens, for all eternity (Apoc, xix. 7-8; Ps, xliv. 10). The sacred Cycle, in its yearly course, presents an image of those ceaseless labours whereby the Holy Ghost continues to form, up to the day of the eternal Nuptials, that varied robe of Holy Church, by diversifying the merits of God's servants, her members here below. To-day, we have two Martyrs becrimsoned with their own blood, setting off the dazzling whiteness of Norbert's spotless works, or of William's innocence; and to-morrow we may contemplate with delighted gaze, the softer light beamed upon our earth, by Margaret, Scotland's Pearl.
Primus and Felician, wealthy Romans, had already attained maturity of age, when our Lord made his voice heard inviting them to forsake their vain idols. Brothers, according to the flesh, they now became more really so, by fidelity to the same call of grace. Together, they proved themselves intrepid helpers of the Confessors of Christ amidst the atrocious persecution which raged against the Church during the latter half of the Third Century. In the same combat were they to fall side by side, exchanging this frail life here below, for that unto which, at one birth, they were to enter for ever in heaven. They futhermore were honoured by having their precious relics, placed in the celebrated Sanctuary consecrated to Saint Stephen, the Proto-Martyr, on Monte Cœlio, and there form its richest treasure.
The holy Liturgy relates their triumph in these few lines:
Primus and Felician were brothers, and being accused of professing the Christian religion, during the persecution of Diocletian and Maximian, they were thrown into irons, which an Angel broke, and they were delivered. But being soon again led before the Prӕtor, and as they most earnestly clung to the Christian faith, they were separated one from the other. The steadfastness of Felician was the first to be put to the test in divers ways. As they who strove to persuade him into impiety, found it hopeless to gain aught from him by words, he was fastened hand and foot to a stake and there left to hang three days, without either food or drink. The day after that, the Prӕtor having called Primus before him, thus addressed him: “Seest thou how much wiser is thy brother, than thou art? He hath obeyed the Emperors, and they have made him honourable. Thou hast only to follow his example to be made partaker of his honours and favours.”
Primus replied: “What hath befallen my brother, I know, for an Angel hath told me. Would to God, that seeing I have the same will that he hath, I were not divided from him in the same martyrdom.” These words raised the wrath of the Prӕtor, and to the torments which he had already inflicted on Primus, he added this also, that he had boiling lead poured into his mouth, and this, in presence of Felician. After that, he had them both dragged into the amphitheatre, and two lions let loose upon them, in presence of about twelve thousand people, who were gathered together to see the show. The lions only fawned upon the knees of the Saints, making friends with them, caressingly moving their heads and tails. This spectacle turned five hundred persons of the assembled crowd, together with their households, to the Christian religion. The Prӕtor then, moved beyond all endurance, by what had passed, caused Primus and Felician to be beheaded with the axe.
Lives of Ss. Primus and Felician.
A. D. 286
These two martyrs were brothers, and lived in Rome many years, mutually encouraging each other in the practice of all good works. They seemed to possess nothing but for the poor, and often spent both nights and days with the confessors in their dungeons, or at the places of their torments and execution. Some they encouraged to perseverance, others who had fallen they raised again, and they made themselves the servants of all in Christ that all might attain to salvation through him. Though their zeal was most remarkable, they had escaped the dangers of many bloody persecutions, and were grown old in the heroic exercises of virtue when it pleased God to crown their labours with a glorious martyrdom. The Pagans raised so great an outcry against them, that by a joint order of Dioclesian and Maximian Herculius they were both apprehended and put in chains. This must have happened in 286, soon after Maximian was associated in the empire, for the two emperors never seem to have met together in Rome after that year. These princes commanded them to be inhumanly scourged, and then sent them to Promotus at Nomentum, a town twelve miles from Rome, to be further chastised, as avowed enemies to the gods. This judge caused them to be cruelly tortured, first both together, afterwards separate from each other; and sought by various arts to cheat them into compliance, as by telling Primus that Felician had offered sacrifice. But the grace of God strengthened them, and they were at length both beheaded on the 9th of June. Their names occur on this day in the ancient western calendars, and in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory the Great. Their bodies were thrown into the fields; but taken up by the Christians, and interred near Nomentum. They were removed to Rome by Pope Theodoras, about the year 645, and deposited in the church of St. Stephen on Mount Celio.
A soul which truly loves God regards all the things of this world as dung, with St Paul, that she may gain Christ. The loss of goods, the disgrace of the world, torments, sickness, and other afflictions are bitter to the senses; but appear light to him that loves. If we can bear nothing with patience and silence, it is because we love God only in words. “One who is slothful and lukewarm complains of everything, and calls the lightest precepts hard,” says Thomas à Kempis; “but a fervent soul finds everything easy which can unite her more closely to God, and embraces his holy will in all things with cheerfulness.”
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Time After Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. VI, 1866; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Ss. Primus and Felician, pray for us.