"Lord, teach me thy wisdom."
Today, January 12, we celebrate the feast of Saint Arcadius of Mauretania (died 302), martyr for the Lord. What is known of Saint Arcadius is very little, with the exception of his bravery in death. The courage and faith of Saint Arcadius inspired and fortified many early Christian martyrs who succeeded him during the times of great persecution. His final words—recorded by observers in his Acts—continue to inspire us today.
Arcadius was a prominent and wealthy citizen of Caesarea, Mauritania (in modern-day Algiers). He was also a Christian, although given the political and persecutory climate of the times, he likely tried to keep this fact a secret. As the persecutions of Christians increased in severity—under the orders of Emperor Diocletian— every alleged Christian began to be dragged from their homes into the town square, and there, forced to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. If they refused, they were put to death.
From the Acts of Arcadius:
“The fury of the tyrants raged violently, and the devil had instigated his soldiers to wage like so many wolves, a bloody war against the servants of Jesus. Upon the least suspicion they broke into houses, made rigorous searches, and if they found a Christian, they treated him upon the spot with the greatest cruelty, their impatience not suffering them to wait the bringing him before a judge. Every day new sacrileges were committed; the faithful were compelled to assist at superstitious sacrifices, to lead victims crowned with flowers through the streets, to burn incense before idols, and to celebrate the enthusiastic feasts of Bacchus.”
Frustrated and unable to locate him, the authorities broke into his home and found a cousin present. While Arcadius' cousin offered a reasonable explanation for his absence, he was arrested. The governor threatened to kill him should Arcadius not present himself and participate in the pagan rituals. Upon hearing that his cousin was suffering for his sake, Arcadius boldly presented himself to the judge.
Arcadius, as recorded in his Acts, said to the magistrate: "If on my account you detain my innocent relation in chains, release him; I, Arcadius, am come in person to give an account of myself, and to declare to you, that he knew not where I was."
"I am willing," answered the judge, "to pardon not only him but you also, on condition that you will sacrifice to the gods."
Arcadius replied, "How can you propose to me such a thing? Do you not know the Christians, or do you believe that the fear of death will ever make me swerve from my duty? Jesus Christ is my life, and death is my gain. Invent what torments you please; but know that nothing shall make me a traitor to my God."
The governor, in a rage, paused to devise some unheard of torment for him. Iron hooks seemed too easy; neither plummets of lead, nor cudgels could satisfy his fury; the very rack he thought by much too gentle. At last imagining he had found a manner of death suitable to his purpose, he said to the ministers of his cruelty, "Take him, and let him see and desire death, without being able to obtain it. Cut off his limbs joint by joint, and execute this so slowly, that the wretch may know what it is to abandon the gods of his ancestors for an unknown deity."
“Lord, teach me thy wisdom.”
After some time, a large crowd had gathered to watch the bloody spectacle, and many found themselves moved to tears of admiration of the holy man’s courage, patience, and confidence in the Lord. Some of these were converted, including the executioners. When the torture was nearly complete, and Arcadius’ limbs lay scattered about him, he joyfully offered them to the Lord, exclaiming: "Happy members, now dear to me, as you at last truly belong to God, being all made a sacrifice to him!"
Then addressing the crowd, he said, "You who have been present at this bloody tragedy, learn that all torments seem as nothing to one who has an everlasting crown before his eyes Your gods are not gods; renounce their worship. He alone for whom I suffer and die, is the true God. He comforts and upholds me in the condition you see me. To die for him is to live; to suffer for him is to enjoy the greatest delights."
With those words, he died, joyful in service to God. Many were struck with awe at his unwavering faith. His limbs were gathered together and buried in one tomb, where later miracles were recorded.
The martyrdom of Saint Arcadius is a physical and tangible reminder of the many struggles and sufferings we experience in our daily lives. Sometimes it may feel as if we are being attacked from all sides—by financial, personal, and health-related worries—and that suffering is all around us. The courage, patience, and joy of Saint Arcadius reminds us that we are not alone in our trials—that the Lord is with us—and that all we need do is offer Him, who so willingly suffers for us, our difficulties and tribulations.
O sovereign king, and absolute Lord of all things, though I am most unworthy to serve you, nevertheless, relying on your grace and boundless mercy, I offer myself up entire to you, and subject whatever belongs to me to your most holy will; and I protest, in presence of your infinite goodness and in presence of the glorious Virgin your mother, and your whole heavenly court, that it is my most earnest desire, and unshaken resolution, to follow and imitate you the nearest I am able, in bearing all injuries and crosses with meekness and patience, and in laboring to die to the world and myself in a perfect spirit of humility and poverty, that I may be wholly yours and you may reign in me in time and eternity. (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)
Year 2: Day 12 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Lives of patient suffering.
Requested Intentions: For a friend struggling with medical problems and surgery (L); Financial blessings (D); For the success of a project (T); Improved financial stability (A); Improved relationship with business partner (A); For employment (N); Reconciliation of a workplace relationship (R); Healing of son, cousin, and friend (L); Healing of a husband from cancer, end to medical problems (T); Freedom from persecution (E); Successful employment (R); Reconciliation of a marriage (M); Successful marriage, employment, healing (J); For a family struggling with a difficult situation (M); For family intentions (I); Reconciliation of a marriage (S); For blessings upon a family (R); Permanent employment (N); Successful employment (M); Healing of a father following stroke (S).
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."