Taken from the Roman Martyrology's July 10th entry, in part it states:
At Rome, the martyrdom of the seven holy brothers, sons of the saintly martyr Felicitas. They are Januarius, Felix, Philip, Sylvanus, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial. They died in the time of Emperor Antoninus, under Publius, prefect of the city. Januarius, after being scourged with rods and detained in prison, died from the blows inflicted with leaded whips. Felix and Philip were scourged to death. Sylvanus was thrown headlong from a great height. Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial were beheaded.The Seven Holy Brothers whose traditional feast is celebrated today serve as an awe inspiring example for us living in a world that has revolted against God and His Divine Laws. How many of us would be willing to publicly set aside our Faith rather than face a brutal and torturous death?
Junius the Prefect was unsuccessful in winning them from their determination by promises and threats, and so they were afflicted with various tortures. Protected by Angels, they persevered in their holy resolution, and they were finally beheaded at the tenth milestone on the Aurelian Way. Their bodies were buried by the matron Plautilla on her estate outside the City and later laid in the Basilica of Constantine near the baptistery. 1960 Roman BreviaryIt is common for us to view the martyrs in a very lofty sense. We see in them great examples of men and women who declare, "I will not deny God. And for this I am willing to die." But the choices that a martyr are forced to make are excruciatingly difficult. Would we do the same?
In the persecution of the early 20th century in Mexico, the atheistic government murdered many Catholics - including small children. The children were told to publicly deny Jesus and live. They were even told, "You don't have to believe it. Just say the words. They are only words. They don't matter. Just say what we want you to say and then you can live." But they knew that words are more than a mere repetition of sounds. They mean something when they are said. So they suffered cruel deaths - sometimes their feet were cut open by a knife and they had to walk for miles while bleeding and in horrible pain until they died. Would we have the Faith of these children to refuse to say words against Christ and His Church?
Have we considered St. Maria Goretti's example more completely in light of this? How many people today would welcome and even enjoy the possibility of having fornication with others? How many would willingly do this. And yet St. Maria Goretti refused to consent to these same acts - and for that she was repeatedly stabbed until she died. Do we have that Faith?
Or do we have the courage to stand like St. Thomas More did against the government when it attacks the Faith and the family? Do we have the courage to defend Holy Matrimony and refuse to accept the civil divorces of our friends and family? St. Thomas More, one of the highest ranking members in the government, willingly lost all of his eternal possessions, honors, and even his life rather than accepting a divorce. Would we fight for this? Would we be willing to fight against the abuses of annulments today or the attacks that the liberal government wages on the Truths of the Faith? Would we willingly die for this and leave behind our friends and family like St. Thomas More left behind his lovely daughter, Margaret?
The martyrs we celebrate today, the sons of St. Felicity, gave up all that they had for the Faith. And all the martyrs show us extraordinary courage. It is not easy. We may think that if liberal Catholics are ok with offering a bowl of incense to a pagan statue in a Hindu temple then it is acceptable. We may think it's not worth fighting over - much less perishing over.
But the First Commandment is clear, as is the greatest Commandment: "You shall love the Lord thy God with thy whole mind and strength." And the only way to do this is to reject all false, non-Catholic religions, and cleave to revealed Catholic Truth. It is not easy. In the midst of the suffering it is not always clear if we do the right thing. But with a firmness we must pray for the courage to hold fast to the end - to the last drop of our blood - and if we do this, we will win the crown of Martyrdom and earn an inheritance in Heaven that will not perish and far outshines any earthly honor. We must refuse to enter non-Catholic places of worship. We must refuse to pray with heretics, schismatics, or pagans. We must refuse to participate in non-Catholic weddings or funerals. It is not easy to remain faithful to the First Commandment today because so few people in the Church today are willing to do this. We hear scandals of bishops praying with protestants or asking for their blessings! We are right to be scandalized. But we should pray in these instances for us to have the courage to persevere. And for those who do sin - let us pray for their conversions and make satisfaction for their sins to Almighty God who demands justice.
May the Seven Holy Brothers pray for us and our leaders in the Church and in the secular governments. May all of of have the courage to live as martyrs. Kyrie eleison!