Saint William Arnaud and the Martyrs of Toulouse and Saint Theodosia of Constantinople and companions. Both groups, at very different times, in very different places, died aggressively defending their faith, proclaiming the Good News of Christ.
Saint William Arnaud (died 1242) and eleven companions dies in Avignonet, France, and are known as the “Martyrs of Toulouse.” William, a Dominican friar, was sent with his companions by Pope Gregory IX, appointed inquisitors, to the regions of France to combat heresy which was spreading under the guise of Albigensianism (a theory of dualism which considered the body evil, thereby preventing resurrection. Christ was thought to have not been man, given that he would have succumbed to evil, had he been. This theory removed the Sacraments of the Church, replacing them with pagan rituals for purification).
Along with William, were Bernard of Roquefort and Garcia d’Aure of Comminges, both Dominicans. Two Franciscan friars accompanied them, Stephen Saint-Thibery and Raymond Cortisan. A Benedictine friar, Raymond Cortison, referred to as “the Writer” originally from Toulouse, joined them, as did Bernard from the cathedral of Toulouse. Pietro d’Arnaud, notary of the Inquisitors, and Fortanerio and Adhemar, clerics of the Inquisitors, completed the group of martyrs.
This group of brave men found most every door to them closed in Toulouse, under penalty of punishment from the ruling count at the time. They set up a small farmhouse outside the city gates, preaching throughout the countryside with great success. Many were converted, and many miracles of healing were performed. Eventually, their presence became threatening to the local government, who lured the holy men to an ambush by spreading word that the ruling Count—an acquaintance of Saint William—was ready to reject his heretical beliefs and return to the Church.
On the eve of the Ascension of Our Lord, the martyrs, having received a heavenly vision of their imminent martyrdom, traveled as a group to the castle of Count Raymond III of Toulouse, where his soldiers fell upon them in the great hall, slaughtering 7 of the 11. The remaining four—including William—escaped to a local Church, where they were found by the soldiers singing the Te Deum. It was here, in the church, that they were murdered—an act unforgivable in Medieval times due to the principle of sanctuary. Particularly angered by the singing, the soldiers first cut out Saint William’s tongue, prior to killing him. The bodies of the martyrs were thrown down a ravine and large boulders were rolled on top of them. As evening fell, however, bright, heavenly lights streamed from their bodies, leading the faithful to them to collect their relics. They were interred in the Church of San Romano at the monastery in Toulouse.
The church of Avignonet where they were murdered was placed under interdict, the doors closed and locked, because of the sacrilege, and for 40 years no Mass was celebrated there. When the interdict was lifted, the bells rang of themselves, according to legend, to let people know that Avignonet was once more a member of the living Church.
Saint Theodosia (died 729) and her companions were nuns in Constantinople who were martyred for their defense of the Church. Born into a noble family in Turkey, she was orphaned at an early age and was raised and educated at the monastery of Saint Anastasia. During her lifetime, Saint Theodosia committed herself to prayer and service to those in need.
During this time, the Church was divided over the bodily depictions of Christ in the form of icons. Emperor Leo III the Isaurian ordered the iconoclast persecutions—that is, the removal and destruction of such artistic renderings. Countless icons were destroyed during this period and those who defended them oftentimes became martyrs for their faith. The position of the icon defenders was one of love for the Lord, and pure worship, captured by Saint John of Damascus: “In former times God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the creator of matter who became matter for my sake . . .”
One such martyr in defense of this historical iconic record of the Church in depicting Our Living God was Saint Theodosia. When the soldiers of Emperor Leo III were ordered to remove the image of Christ which stood over the Chalke Gate of the Imperial Palace, Saint Theodosia and 12 companion nuns attempted to prevent the destruction, crying out, and preaching the faith. Saint Theodosia herself is said to have shook the ladder so violently that the soldier climbing to destroy the icon was knocked from it, and eventually died. She, and her companions, were arrested and tortured for their interference with the emperor’s orders. While her companions were decapitated, Saint Theodosia was designated the leader and sentenced to a more painful and slow death. She was eventually killed by having a ram’s horn plunged deep into her neck, slowing exsanguinating.
Following the restoration of the icons, eighty years after her death, Theodosia’s remains were placed in a Constantinople convent, where they are venerated by procession. Numerous healings have been recorded via her intercession.
Pentecost—and are inspired of the good we can do in the world should we let out lives become mirrors of Christ!
Inspired by the origins and spiritual history of the Holy Rosary, we continue our meditation on the psalms, one each day, in order, for 150 days. Just as the holy martyrs looked to the Lord for help against unjust enemies, so, too, do we pray.
Today’s Psalm: Psalm 35: Prayer for Help against Unjust Enemies
1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and buckler;
arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
"I am your salvation."
4 May those who seek my life
be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay.
5 May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away;
6 may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.
7 Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD
and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim,
"Who is like you, O LORD ?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them."
11 Ruthless witnesses come forward;
they question me on things I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good
and leave my soul forlorn.
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
14 I went about mourning
as though for my friend or brother.
I bowed my head in grief
as though weeping for my mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
attackers gathered against me when I was unaware.
They slandered me without ceasing.
16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;
they gnashed their teeth at me.
17 O Lord, how long will you look on?
Rescue my life from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions.
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among throngs of people I will praise you.
19 Let not those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
let not those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
20 They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
21 They gape at me and say, "Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it."
22 O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent.
Do not be far from me, O Lord.
23 Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, O LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
25 Do not let them think, "Aha, just what we wanted!"
or say, "We have swallowed him up."
26 May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27 May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, "The LORD be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant."
28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness
and of your praises all day long.
Day 149 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Courageous living of our faith.
Requested Intentions: Recovery of left shoulder fracture (E); Financial recovery (A); The repose of a lonely soul (L); Health for an ailing nephew (A); Those suffering from depression (J); Successful conception of a child (D); Successful adoption (S); Healing of a father battling cancer (S); For the guidance of Our Blessed Mother (A); Recovery from a stroke (R).
Psalm: Psalm 35: Prayer for Help against Unjust Enemies
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."