Within twenty years after Christ died, the Gospel had reached the center of the Empire. A small community of converts gathered in Rome. In July of the year 64, a fire broke out in the city and spread rapidly in the summer heat. Within ten days, two-thirds of the city was destroyed. Suspicions of arson centered on the Emperor Nero himself, who was composing an epic poem while the city burned. Notoriously brutal and unbalanced, Nero fixed the blame on the Christians. He had them arrested, interrogated, and then murdered for his personal entertainment. Tertullian’s famous saying aptly describes the impact of their witness: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Credit: Magnificat.net; as published by Magnificat, June 30, 2020 The Feast of Feast of The First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, which is observed on 30 June. Peace be with you! From the Author, My Daily Bread: A Reason2bCatholic blog
Today is the Feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church
The martyrs gave their blood for truth, and you are not able to come to church? They gave their lives for Christ, and you cannot make a small journey for him? But you say, “I am a sinner, I cannot come.” Then come, and cease to be one!
St. John Chrysostom
First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church
These early Christians were the first persecuted in mass by the Emperor Nero in the year 64 A.D., before the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. Nero was widely believed to have caused the fire that burned down much of Rome in that same year. He blamed the fire on Christians and put them to death, many by crucifixion, being fed to the wild animals in the circus, or by being tied to posts and lit up as human torches.
These Holy martyrs were called the “Disciples of the Apostles” and their firmness in the face of their gruesome deaths were a powerful testimony that led to many conversions in the early Roman Church. These were all early Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the “Apostle of the Gentiles” Romans 15:20. Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in 57-58 A.D.
There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of Controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50 A.D. Historians tell us that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city, “Caused by certain Christians”. It is believed that many came back after the Emperor’s death in 54 A.D., because Paul’s letter was addressed to a Church with members from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.
In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the Historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their “hatred of the human race”. Peter and Paul were probably among the victims of this time. Eventually Nero was threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, and committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31 because of these, the first of Christian martyrs being falsely blamed.
Practical Take Away
Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his sufferings and death. Notice how no human force could stop the Spirit unleashed upon the world through the Christians? They only became stronger witnesses to the faith. Pope Clement I, third successor of St. Peter writes, “It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the church were persecuted and struggled unto death… First of all, Peter whom because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice, but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith.” We too, can follow the examples of the Great Saints that went before us, paving the way of our faith that has stood the many centuries of time. Don’t forget to call upon the First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church on this their Feast Day – as they are always willing to help us, if only we call upon them for assistance.
Credit: As published, from Newman Connection, http://www.newmanconnection.com/faith/saint/first-holy-martyrs-of-the-holy-roman-church.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, Faithful Witnesses of Jesus Christ and His Church, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.