September 20, 2021: ST. EUSTACE AND COMPANIONS
September 20, 2021: ST. EUSTACE AND COMPANIONS, MARTYRS.
Our trials are light compared with yours, O blessed martyrs! Obtain for us the grace not to betray the confidence of our Lord, when He calls us to suffer for Him in this world. It is thus we must win the glory of heaven.
Rome honoured you with so much love! Take vengeance on the audacity of hell, and deliver the holy city!
O God, by whose favour we celebrate the festival of thy holy Martyrs, Eustace and Companions, grant we may enjoy their fellowship in eternal bliss. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
The twentieth of September marks one of the saddest events in history. At the height of her power, in the glorious days of Pepin and Charlemagne, the eldest daughter of the Church had crowned her mother; and the Church, in the person of her Head, reigned in reality, as well as by right, until, a thousand years later, satan took advantage of the fallen state of France to despoil Peter of the patrimony which ensured his independence. The holy cross is still shedding its rays upon us!
To-day a group of martyrs, and this time a whole family, father, mother, and sons, take up their position around the standard of salvation. While the antiquity of their cultus in both east and west rests on the best authority, the details of their life are extremely vague. Could Placid the tribune, whose exploits are recorded by Josephus in his Wars of the Jews, be the same as the Eustace we are celebrating to-day? Does the genealogy of our saint connect him with the Octavia family, from which Augustus sprang? Again are we to recognize as his direct descendant the noble Tertullus, who confided to St. Benedict his son Placid, the favourite child of the holy patriarch, and the proto-martyr of the Benedictine Order? Subiaco long possessed the mountain designated by ancient tradition as the site of the apparition of the mysterious stag; Tertullus may have bequeathed it to the monastery, as his son’s patrimony. But we have not space enough to do more than record the fact that these questions have been raised.
There could hardly be a more touching legend than that of our martyrs.
Eustace, otherwise called Placid, was a Roman, illustrious for his birth, wealth, and military renown, so that under the emperor Trajan he became general of the army. Once while hunting, he was chasing a stag of remarkable size, which suddenly halted, and showed him between its horns a large and bright image of Christ our Lord hanging upon the cross and inviting him to make everlasting life the object of his pursuit. Thereupon together with his wife Theopista and his two little sons Agapitus and Theopistus, he entered the ranks of the Christian warfare.
Some time afterwards he returned to the place of the vision, in obedience to the command of our Lord, from whom he there heard how much he was to suffer for God’s glory. He underwent, with wonderful patience, such incredible losses that in a short time he was reduced to the utmost need, and was obliged to retire privately. On the way he had the unhappiness to see first his wife, and then his two sons taken from him. Overwhelmed by all these misfortunes, he lived for a long time unknown, in a distant country, as a farm bailiff; until at length a voice from heaven comforted him; and soon after, a fresh occasion of war arising, Trajan had him sought out and again placed at the head of the army.
During the expedition, he unexpectedly found his wife and children again. He returned to Rome in triumph amidst universal congratulations; but was soon commanded to offer sacrifice to the false gods in thanksgiving for his victory. On his firm refusal, every art was tried to make him renounce the faith of Christ, but in vain. He was then, with his wife and sons, thrown to the lions. But the beasts showed nothing but gentleness; whereupon the emporer, in a rage, commanded the martyrs to be shut up in a brazen bull heated by a fire underneath it. There, singing the praises of God, they consummated their sacrifice, and took their flight to eternal happiness on the twelfth of the kalends of October. Their bodies were found intact, and reverently buried by the faithful, but were afterwards translated with honour to a church erected to their names.
Another account of St. Eustace and Companions.
St. Eustachius, called by the Greeks Eustathius, and before his conversion named Placidus, was a nobleman who suffered martyrdom at Rome, about the reign of Adrian, together with his wife Theopista, called before her baptism Tatiana, and two sons, Agapius and Theopistus. The ancient sacramentaries mention in the prayer for the festival of St. Eustachius, hit profuse charities to the poor, on whom he bestowed all his large possessions, sometime before he laid down his life for his faith. An ancient church in Rome was built in his honour, with the title of a Diacony; the same now gives title to a, cardinal. His body lay deposited in this church till, in the twelfth age, it was translated to that of St. Denis, near Paris.
How noble is it to see integrity and virtue triumphing over interest, passion, racks, and death, and setting the whole world at defiance! To see a great man preferring the least duty of justice, truth, or religion, to the favour or menace of princes; readily quitting estate, friends, country, and life, rather than consent to anything against his conscience; and at the same time, meek, humble, and modest in his sufferings; forgiving from his heart and tenderly loving his most unjust and treacherous enemies and persecutors! Passion and revenge often make men furious: and the lust of power, worldly honour, applause, or wealth, may prompt them to brave dangers; but these passions leave them weak and dastardly in other cases, and are themselves the basest slavery, and most grievous crimes and misery. Religion is the only basis on which true magnanimity and courage can stand. It so enlightens the mind as to set a man above all human events, and to preserve him in all changes and trials steady and calm in himself; it secures him against the errors, the injustices, and frowns of the world; is by its powerful motives the strongest spur to all generous actions, and under afflictions and sufferings a source of unalterable peace and overflowing joy, which spring from an assured confidence that God's will is always just and holy, and that he will be its protector and rewarder.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Eustace and Companions, pray for us.