Today, June 18, we celebrate the feast days of four holy men and women, martyrs of the Church. Saints Alena, Aquilina, Marcus, and Marcellianus lived at different times—in different places—throughout the history of the Church. Despite their differences, each of these holy men and women—some just children—stood up to the prevailing paganism of the day, willingly suffering persecution, and provided a powerful witness to the faith. For their efforts, each earned the glorious crown of martyrdom, and remain testimony and inspiration to us today.
Saint Alena (died 640), Virgin martyr, was born in Dilbeek, Belgium, the daughter of a powerful pagan chieftain. As a child, she began secretly attending Mass in a chapel at Vorst, and without the knowledge of her parents, converted to the faith and was baptized.
Her father, concerned with where his daughter was slipping off to each day, ordered her followed. The guards tracked her through the forest, witnessing her walk across the river Senne to attend Mass. Eventually, the soldiers found her at the chapel, praying before the alter of the Lord.
Given the report of his trusted guards, Alena’s father came to the conclusion that she had been bewitched by Christians, and ordered her arrest. She resisted, calling upon the Lord as protector and savior, and during the struggle, her arm was severed. She died quickly, offering her soul to Christ. Her severed arm was miraculously transported by angels to the alter of the chapel where she prayed. Many miracles occurred at her intercession, including the restoration of sight to a blind man. Witnessing these miracles, her parents converted to Christianity. Her relics are venerated today at the chapel in Forest, Belgium, and remain a popular pilgrimage site.
Saint Marcus and Marcellianus (died 286), confessors and martyrs, were twin brothers from a distinguished Roman family. Their martyrdom was recorded fully in the Acts of Saint Sebastian, who offered them support and encouragement following their arrest.
Both Marcus and Marcellianus became deacons of the Church, and under the reign and persecution of Emperor Diocletian, were arrested and ordered to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Their parents, Tranquillinus and Martia, visited them in prison, urging them to renounce their faith, but Saint Sebastian visited them and offered them encouragement and support.
Saint Aquilina (281-293), Virgin martyr, was born to a Christian family in Byblos, Palestine. Educated from an early age in the faith, she received her instruction from the Bishop of Byblos, By age seven, little Aquilina was already completely versed in the true Christian life, and by age ten she was so filled with divine understanding and the grace of the Holy Spirit that she, with great power and zealousness, preached Christ to her female companions. Aquilina was deeply devoted to the Lord. As a young girl, she could be found preaching and witnessing to others, and by age 12, she was well-known as a Christian through her teachings and model of living. Through her efforts, many were brought to Christ. Given her age, she was especially effective in teaching children, and many youth were received into the Church at her hand.
Eventually, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, she was brought before the Magistrate Volusian. He questioned her about her activities, and the youth of 12 cheerfully answered, “I am a Christian.”
"You are leading your friends and comrades away from the religion of our gods to the belief in Christ, the Crucified. Don't you know that our kings condemn this Christ and sentence to death those who worship him? Leave this error and offer oblation to the gods and you shall live. If you refuse, you shall undergo the most atrocious sufferings."
Saint Aquilina answered, full of zeal for the Lord, "I am not afraid of suffering at all; rather, I aspire to it because with it I emulate my God, Jesus Christ, and die like Him, so that I am resurrected and glorified with Him."
Incensed by her unwavering faith, Volusian ordered that she be flogged. Tied down and stripped, she was savagely flogged before a crowd of onlookers. Despite her age, she was treated as an adult. She was struck upon the face, and then stripped and beaten with whips. Her torturers asked, “Where then is your God? Let Him come and take you out of our hands.”
But the saint answered, “The Lord is here with me invisibly, and the more I suffer, the more strength and endurance will He give me.”
Following her flogging, Volusian again tried to shake her faith, but she answered with courage: "Neither you nor Satan will be able to impose on me sufferings stronger than my strength to sustain, with the power of my God, Jesus."
"You are going to change your opinion in a few days, so contemplate the matter."
Aquilina answered, "I shall never change my mind. I am determined and I shall not budge. I lived a Christian since my childhood and Christian I shall die."
Thoroughly angered, the Magistrate lost his restraint, and ordered her body cut with a sharp rake. This was enacted until she fainted. While on the ground, her eardrums were punctured with flaming iron rods, leading her brain to discharge through her nose. As this was generally fatal, Volusian ordered her body be discarded like rubbish outside the walls of the city, where wild dogs would consume her.
However, through the miraculous intercession of angels, Aquilina survived. An angel of God appeared to her at night and said to her: "Arise, and be whole!" And the virgin arose and was whole and for a long time she offered up praise of thanksgiving to God imploring Him not to deprive her to fulfill her martyr's mortification. A voice from heaven was heard: "Go, it will be to you as you pray" and Aquilina set out for the town. The gates of the town opened on their own accord before her and she entered like a spirit into the palace of the magistrate and appeared before his bed. Volusian was seized with unspeakable fear, seeing the virgin alive whom he thought was dead. He was astonished that she had survived, and had her first imprisoned. Planning to have her decapitated in the morning, her body was found dead in her cell before this final indignity was delivered. Local Christians rescued her relics and buried her in a tomb outside the city, which later became famous for miracles. Her relics were later translated to Constantinople, where a great basilica was built in her honor.
Your lamb Aquilina, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice:
“I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering.
In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,
and I died so that I might live with You.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
for I have offered myself in love.”
Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.
You ascended to the heights through martyrdom, all-honorable Aquilina,
having purified your soul through the virtues of your virginity.
You were wounded with love for Christ your bridegroom,
before whom you stand rejoicing with the angels;
together with them unceasingly pray for us all.
Year 2: Day 169 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Courage and faith to serve the Lord
Requested Intentions: For a mother’s mental health and for kindness and forgiveness, for housing problems, for dental health (T); For the soul of a departed friend (X); Restoration of health (D); Successful employment for couple (N); For employment for children (K); For health of friend, for successful relationships for children, for safe pregnancy for daughter (C); For the health of a mother (J); Virtue for daughter (V); Successful acceptance to college for nephew (M); For the health of a cousin (T); Freedom from legal difficulties for husband (S); Husband’s freedom from illness (L); Personal intentions (S); Successful passing of dental board examination (P); Blessings on a family (Z); Successful permanent employment (C); Healing of a son with autism (J)
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."