Today, February 15, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Faustinus and Jovita (died 121), brothers, and martyrs for the faith. As recorded in the Roman Martyrology: “At Brescia, in the time of Emperor Hadrian, the birthday of the holy martyrs Faustinus and Jovita, who received the triumphant crown of martyrdom after many glorious combats for the faith of Christ. “
Faustinus and Jovita were born into nobility, and were raised in the faith. They became known for their faith and acts of charity, as well as their great love for study and religion. The brothers inspired each other and helped each other grow deeper in the faith, supporting and nurturing the flame of Christ’s love within their love for each other. As they aged, they became known for their zealous preaching of Christianity throughout Brescia (Lombardy), the place of their birth. Inseparable, they did not shrink from their calling to preach the Gospel, even after Christians began being persecuted during the reign of Emperor Adrian. They maintained their faith with vigor and zeal, and in doing so, brought the wrath of the emperor down upon them.
Faustinus as ordained a priest by the Bishop of Brescia, and Jovita served as his deacon. During Mass one day, they were seized by army officers, and commanded to offer sacrifice and worship to the pagan gods, including the sun. Faustinus replied that the two would only worship the living God, Christ, who created the sun to give light to the world.
The temple to which they were brought was adorned with bright, golden statues of the sun god, brilliant in the light, surrounded by golden rays. Saint Jovita, gazing at the statue, cried aloud, “Yes, we adore the God reigning in heaven, who created the sun. And you, vain statue, turn black, to the shame of those who adore you!” At his very words, the statue turned black. The emperor, thoroughly irritated, ordered it cleaned, but when the pagan priests touched the statue, it crumbled into ash.
Immediately sentenced to death, the brothers were sent to the amphitheatre to be viciously mauled and devoured by lions, but as with other saintly men and women condemned to death, the lions laid down by their feet, docile. After several attempts, the men were thrown into a dark cell, kept without food and water for days, but angels of the Lord appeared to them, ministering to their health and providing them strength and joy for their torture.
Thrown into a large pit of fire, the flames parted and they were not burnt. Many witnesses were converted to Christ during these, their acts of faith. Frustrated, the emperor ordered their heads removed, finally successful in earning the brothers their golden martyrs’ crowns.
Saints Faustinus and Jovita are honored as the chief patrons of Brescia, and their relics are located in the ancient church bearing their name.
O God, who year by year dost gladden us by the solemnity of Thy holy martyrs Faustinus and Jovita, mercifully grant that we, who rejoice in their merits, may be inspired by their examples. Amen.