June 18, 2021: SS. MARK AND MARCELLIANUS
June 18, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF SS. MARK AND MARCELLIANUS, MARTYRS
For to them belongs the kingdom of heaven, who despising the life of this world, have obtained the rewards of the kingdom, and washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who celebrate the festival of thy holy Martyrs Marcus and Marcellianus, may, by their prayers, be delivered from all impending evils. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
We have already met with these noble athletes of today's feast, for on January 20th, when celebrating Saint Sebastian, the brave defender of holy Church, Mark and Marcellian, appeared at his side, as the noblest conquest won by the sainted head of the prӕtorian guards. There are other heroes likewise, gained over by his zealous intrepidity, whose names gild the pages of the Martyrology; but these two whose festival we are keeping, were the immediate occasion of Sebastian's leading unto God so goodly a troop of valiant Christians. Their conversion prepared Sebastian's martyrdom, by reason of his apostolate in their regard, and their glory eternally redounds to him, around whom in heaven, they form a resplendent phalanx.
Captivity, torments, and even the sentence of death pronounced upon them, had failed to shake the courage of these two brethren. A trial yet more terrible awaited them, namely the sight forced upon them, of the heart-broken grief caused to all they loved on earth, by this their sentence of condemnation; for their family not being Christian knew no bounds to sorrow. Their father and mother bent down by years, the wife of each, leading by the hand or in her arms a group of weeping children, all uttering bitterest reproaches against these soldiers of Christ, for the destitution in which their coming death would plunge the survivors,—such was the dire attack! Sebastian, profiting by the liberty his position afforded to approach the Christians in prison, was ever their comfort and encourager; he failed not to be present at this scene, for his noble heart fully realised how dangerously severe such a trial must be, for souls as yet unscathed by any personal peril. The danger he knew might be imminent, at that moment; wherefore scorning his own safety, he there and then revealed himself a Christian, in order to hold out a strengthening hand to the two brethren. Moreover, God lent such wondrous efficacy to his words, that they converted even the pagans there assembled. Thus Mark and Marcellian had the joy of beholding those whose piteous complaints had a moment before so painfully thrilled their souls, now applauding their constancy and demanding Baptism. Their unbounded happiness was evident, all through their final conflict, which opened Heaven unto them and which is related as follows in this short Lesson:
Mark and Marcellian were two brothers, Romans, who were arrested by the Prefect Fabian for believing in Christ, fastened to a beam, to which their feet were nailed. The judge said to them: “Wretched creatures, do think for a moment, and free yourselves from such suffering.” But they answered him: “Never did we enjoy any banquet so much as we do what we are now undergoing for Jesus Christ's sake, in whose love we now begin to be firmly fixed: would that He might let us suffer this as long as we are clad in this corruptible body!” Still suffering, they for a day and a night, sang the praises of God continually, and in the end were thrust through with darts, and so attained the glory of martyrdom. Their bodies are buried in the Via Ardeatina.
Another account of Ss. Mark and Marcellianus.
Marcus and Marcellianus were twin brothers of an illustrious family in Rome, had been converted to the faith in their youth, and were honourably married. Dioclesian ascended the imperial throne in 284; soon after which the heathens raised tumultuary persecutions, though this emperor had not yet published any new edicts against the church. These martyrs were thrown into prison, and condemned by Chromatius, lieutenant of the prefect of Rome, to be beheaded. Their friends obtained a respite of the execution for thirty days, that they might prevail with them to comply with the judge, and they were removed into the house of Nicostratus the public register. Tranquillinus and Martia, their afflicted heathen parents, in company with their sons' own wives and their little babes at their breasts, endeavoured to move them by the most tender entreaties and tears. St. Sebastian, an officer of the emperor's household, coming to Rome soon after their commitment daily visited and encouraged him. The issue of the conferences was the happy conversion of the father, mother, and wives, also of Nicostratus, and soon after of Chromatius, who set the saints at liberty, and abdicating the magistracy retired into the country. Marcus and Marcellianus were hid by Castulus, a Christian officer of the household, in his apartments in the palace; but they were betrayed by an apostate named Torquatus, and retaken. Fabrian who had succeeded Chromatius, condemned them to be bound to two pillars with their feet nailed to the same. In this posture they remained a day and a night, and on the following day were stabbed with lances, and buried in the Arenarium, since called their cemetery, two miles out of Rome, between the Appian and Ardeatine roads. All the ancient Martyrologies mark their festival on the 18th of June.
Virtue is often false, and in it the true metal is not to be distinguished from dross until persecution has applied the touchstone, and proved the temper. We know not what we are till we have been tried. It costs nothing to say we love God above all things, and to show the courage of martyrs at a distance from the danger; but that love is sincere which has stood the proof. “Persecution shows who is a hireling, and who a true pastor,” says St. Bernard.
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. Mark and Marcellianus, pray for us.