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Friday, September 9, 2016
Feast of St. Peter Claver and St. Gorgonius

September 9th is the Feast of St. Peter Claver.  Cartagena, in Columbia, was the central slave mart of Spanish America. The slaves were transported on filthy ships like animals - the hapless Africans were forgotten men. A young Spanish Jesuit named Fr. Peter Claver appeared providentially in Cartagena in 1610, and until his death in 1654, he cared with the tenderness of Christ for the wracked bodies and tortured souls of the slaves.

During his long apostolate he baptized some three hundred thousand Negro children of God. The Church has designated him the special patron of all Catholic missioners working among the Negroes.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the Church worked tireless for the elimination of racially based slavery and condemned it repeatedly.

September 9th, besides the Feast of St. Peter Claver, is the feastday of St. Gorgonius.  During the early years of the fourth century, St. Gorgonius, with the help of his ally St. Dorotheus, both Christian freedmen in the palace of Diocletian at Nicomedia, managed to convert almost the whole imperial household.

When they saw another servant, Peter, tortured for having borne witness to Jesus, they protested to the Emperor. Emperor Diocletian promptly condemned them to severe tortures and then to death by strangulation.

St Gorgonius and St. Dorotheus died as martyrs for the Faith and won the crown of glory prepared for them before the world began.

St. Gorgonius, St. Dorotheus and St. Adrian, Martyrs by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876 

The Roman Martyrology commemorates St. Gorgonius and St. Dorotheus, today. St. Adrian was mentioned yesterday. St. Gorgonius, though chamberlain of the heathen Emperor, Dioclesian, was secretly a Christian, and with the assistance of Dorotheus, who occupied a similar position, he gradually converted all the chamberlains of the court to the Christian religion.

One day, when both had witnessed the cruel torturing of a Christian, condemned by the emperor, their hearts were filled with the desire to suffer martyrdom for their faith, and addressing Dioclesian they said: "Why do you torture only him? We profess the same religion, and we wish to suffer for Christ's sake as he suffers." The Emperor was highly incensed at these words, and both were immediately barbarously scourged, after which, salt and vinegar were poured upon their wounds. When this had been done, they were chained upon a gridiron, placed over a fire, and having been thus roasted for some time, they were at length hung. Thus died these two holy martyrs, animated to endurance by witnessing the martyrdom of others.

St. Adrian was converted in a similar manner. He was about twenty-eight years old, descended from the first Roman nobility, and was one of the most distinguished of the imperial courtiers under Maximian Galerius. He was often a witness of the sufferings of the Christians when they were tortured in the presence of the emperor. Considering the constancy and joy with which they suffered the most cruel pains, he came to the conclusion that such strength must be more than human, and that there must be a God who imparted it, and further, that this God must be the only true one. Having arrived thus far, he would no longer hide the change that had taken place in him, and he confessed publicly that he was a Christian, and desired to live and die as such. No sooner had the Emperor Maximian been acquainted with this, than he commanded him to be cast into a dungeon, where twenty-three others were already confined. Natalia, the wife of Adrian, who, for a long time, had been a Christian, was greatly rejoiced when she heard of his conversion. She hastened to the dungeon, threw herself upon his neck, kissed the chains that fettered him, and praised him that at last he had recognized the truth of Christianity. Having encouraged him to remain firm in the approaching combat, she had to leave him as she was not permitted to stay any longer.

A few days later, Adrian was informed that the emperor had sentenced him to die. Not in the least terrified at this message, he bribed the jailer to allow him to go to his wife and communicate to her this joyful news, promising to return in a few hours. When on his way, he met an acquaintance, who hastened before him to prepare Natalia for the coming of her husband. She was terrified when she heard of his coming, thinking that he must have become faithless to Christ. Running hastily to the door of the house, she closed it against him, saying that she neither could nor would recognize as her spouse, one who had become an apostate. Adrian called to her to listen, as he had not renounced the true faith, but had only returned to bring her the joyful news that he had been sentenced to die. Quickly opening the door to him, Natalia, falling at his feet, begged his pardon, and after some conversation, she returned with him to the prison, where she renewed her exhortations that he would remain firm, and she prayed to God to give him strength in his approaching martyrdom.

The day on which Adrian was brought before the Emperor, Natalia, going to him, said: "The time has now arrived, my beloved spouse, to manifest your noble resolutions. Think of the Almighty. Your sufferings will end, but the reward which you will receive in heaven has no end. If you have been brave in combating for your Emperor, who could give you only an earthly recompense, how much braver ought you to be when fighting for Christ, who will give you an eternal crown." Adrian, filled with Christian heroism, went to the Emperor, and as he fearlessly confessed Christ, the tyrant ordered him first to be scourged with rods, then beaten with clubs, and after this, to be torn with small iron hooks. Having suffered all this, he was led back to the dungeon, where Natalia and some other matrons waited for him. Embracing him most tenderly, she congratulated him on having so courageously withstood the first assault. She wiped the blood that flowed from his wounds, and endeavored in every possible way to give him some comfort.

The tyrant, hearing of it, forbade them henceforth to admit women into the prison. Natalia, going home, cut off her hair, put on male attire, and thus returned unknown to Adrian. Soon after came the imperial command to cut off the hands and feet of all the imprisoned Christians and to burn their bodies. The invincible confessors of Christ praised God and prepared themselves for the cruel martyrdom. Natalia requested the executioners to begin with her husband, that the sight of the sufferings of the others might not give him fear. Encouraging him to bear his pain with fortitude, she accompanied him to the place of execution, and there manifested a heroism such as perhaps the world had never before beheld. She herself laid the feet of her husband upon the block, and constantly animating him, she held them there until the executioner had cut them off. She then did the same with his hands. Adrian remained fearless to his last breath. Natalia reverentially kissed his feet and hands, but was not allowed to take them home with her. The fate of Adrian was shared by all those who had been imprisoned with him, and when they had all gloriously ended their combat, the executioners threw their bodies and limbs upon a pile of wood to burn them.

But a terrible storm arose, every one fled, and the rain extinguished the fire, which gave the faithful an opportunity to carry the bodies and limbs, as yet untouched by the flames, into the nearest Christian dwelling. They also bought for a large sum, the garments which the martyrs had worn and which the executioners had divided among themselves. Placing these and the sacred relics in a vessel, they brought them from Nicomedia, where these holy martyrs had suffered, to Constantinople. One arm of her husband was kept as a priceless treasure by Natalia, that incomparable Christian heroine. Some days later, Adrian appeared to her, and directed her to leave for Constantinople in order to escape the danger of becoming the wife of a heathen, as the Emperor desired. Natalia obeyed, went to Constantinople, and served God with great fervor, until Adrian again appeared to her in her sleep and said: "Come, thou zealous servant of Christ and of the Martyrs! take possession of the glory prepared for thee in Heaven!" She awoke, related her dream, again closed her eyes, as though she would sleep, and calmly and peacefully expired.


I. Gorgonius and Dorotheus converted all the chamberlains of the Emperor to the true faith, and evinced a most admirable zeal for the salvation of souls. There may be also in our time, men in a subordinate condition, who have done the same in regard to their companions. By kind persuasions, by explaining the Catholic faith, by inviting them to listen to sermons, they have made them acquainted with the truth, and thus converted them. Those who have occasion for such pious work ought not to neglect it, as by it they prove their love to God and their neighbor, to the great benefit of their own souls. There are many other ways in which domestics, soldiers, and others, may give evidence of this love. You, perhaps, work with another servant, or have a friend or acquaintance, who is negligent or slothful in his prayers, in going to church, in partaking of the Holy Sacraments, in reading devout books, or in the exercise of other good works. You know another who is addicted to gambling, cursing, blasphemy, slander, or drinking.

He utters the most lascivious speeches and laughs at them; he sings the most abominable songs; reads heretical, superstitious, unchaste, or otherwise bad books. He is faithless to those whom he serves, and purloins all he can lay hold of; he frequents bad or dangerous company, and goes to places of sinful amusement. Oh! how you can prove your zeal; how strong a love can you show to God and to your neighbor, if you animate those who are tepid to greater fervor in prayer, to visiting the church, to partaking of the Holy Sacraments, to reading devout books, and other exercises of virtue, and in preventing those who are wicked from doing works of iniquity! In many cases, this is your duty, and by omitting it, you become guilty of the sins of others. It is not always possible for you to make an impression with your words; but you can do much by your example, and you can pray for those whom you can neither persuade nor dissuade. These means, given you by the Almighty, you must not neglect to make use of, if you truly love God and your neighbor.

You must do all you can, and where you are in doubt how to act, ask the advice of your confessor. I only tell you this: you cannot do anything more pleasing to God or more beneficial to mankind, than to admonish the sinner to do good, and to prevent him from doing evil. You must also know that you cannot do anything more displeasing to God, or more hurtful to yourself and your neighbor, than by restraining the latter from doing good or by tempting him to sin, or by giving him an opportunity of doing evil. Hence, guard yourself from restraining your fellow servants, your friends, or others, from praying, going to church to hear sermons, or similar pious works, by laughing at them, or by deriding their piety. Still more guard yourself from tempting them to faithlessness, disobedience, unchastity, or any other sin. Become not a partaker in the iniquities that your fellow servants commit. Do not assist them, even should they persecute you, or drive you from your place on account of it. It is much better to be driven from the house innocently, by the wickedness of such people, than deservedly to be precipitated into hell by the Almighty. If you were to poison, or otherwise kill, the body of your fellow-servant, you would render yourself guilty or death before the temporal authorities and would die by the hand of the executioner. What do you suppose you deserve from God, if you deprive your neighbor of the spiritual life of his soul, yes, even of eternal life, which you do by tempting him to sin or by giving him opportunities to do wrong, or by otherwise assisting him in doing evil? Do not doubt that you deserve the unavoidable punishment of Divine Justice, hell, eternal perdition. If you fear this, follow my advice.

II. "Think of God!" with these words Natalia animated her husband to endure bravely the most barbarous martyrdom. By saying this, she meant: "God is present; He sees your suffering, He will assist, strengthen, and richly recompense you. Think of this, and you will not regard your pains, you will remain constant." Take this today as an important lesson, not only to cheer you in adversity, but also to prevent you from sin and to animate you to remain steadfast in the path of rectitude. "Think of God:" He is always with you. He sees how and what you suffer. He will assist you with His grace and richly recompense you. Hope in Him, do not despair. He knows the good you do. He leaves nothing unrewarded. Therefore be zealous in doing good. God is with you, when you are in temptation to sin. He sees, hears, and knows everything. Nothing that you do escapes Him. Hence, dare not commit sin in His presence, before His very eyes. He can precipitate you into everlasting fire, the very moment you offend Him. Do not dare to utter an offensive word, or to give place to an evil thought; for He will one day call you to account for it. Think of God! In times long since past, this was the lesson the venerable Tobias gave to his son: "All the days of thy life, have God in thy mind; and take heed that thou never consent to sin." (Tobias, iv.)


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