Saturday, July 23, 2005

St Apollinaris' and St Phocas the Gardener's Day - Problems of Meekness and Martyrdom

Today is the feast day of St Apollinaris, patron saint of, amongst other things, Düsseldorf and diseases of the sexual organs.

Apollinaris was born in Antioch, Turkey in the first century and may have been a disciple of St Peter. As first bishop of Ravenna, he was martyred after Emperor Vespasian banished the Christians.

Today is also St Phocas the Gardener's Day. St Phocas was a Christian gardener of Sinope, on the Black Sea in Paphlagonia, whom Roman soldiers were sent to execute. Not knowing what he looked like when they got to Paphlagonia, they asked St Phocas to help them find him. St. Phocas promised that he would, even offering them food and a bed for the night. That night, St Phocas dug his own grave in his garden. Then he prepared himself for death. In the morning, he led the soldiers to his grave and revealed who he was. The soldiers were aghast and at first reluctant to carry out the execution. But St Phocas reassured them and persuaded them to behead him.

The example of St Phocas' Christian meekness perplexes the blog amid today's terrorist onslaughts. How should a Christian blog behave in the face of Islamist violence? Whom should we follow - St Phocas, obeying Christ's injunction to "turn the other cheek"? Or the Church Militant and the noble Crusaders?

The problem with meekness is that it is leads to martyrdom (and extinction). The problem with Crusading is that it doesn't conform to today's conception of Christianity. Maybe the best thing is to retire to a pillar in the desert. For a blog with a wife and children, this is not an easily realisable course of action. But the alternatives don't bear thinking about.

Catholic Online - Saints & Angels - St. Apollinaris

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