Monday, September 20, 2010

Memorial of St Eustace & Companions

"Eustace (whose name before his Baptism was Placidus) was a Roman, alike well-known on account of his noble birth, his great earthly wealth, and his eminent distinction as a soldier.  He gained, under the Emperor Trajan, the post of military commander.  Once upon a time he was hunting, and following an extraordinarily large stag, when the beast stood still, and Eustace saw between his horns a tall and glorious figure of the Lord Christ hanging upon the Cross, whence came a voice bidding him to follow after life eternal.  Thereupon Eustace and his wife Theopista, and their two little sons Agapitus and Theopistus, enlisted themselves as soldiers under the Great Captain, Christ.

In a little while he went back, according as the Lord had commanded him, to the place where he had seen the first vision, and there he heard from God how much he was to bear for his glory.  It was not long after that he had great losses and became exceedingly poor, but he bore it very patiently.  Then he was constrained to fly away privily, and on the journey was grievously afflicted in that, first, his wife and then his children were parted from him and carried he knew not whither.  Under the weight of these sorrows he lay hid a long while a far-off place, working as the steward of a land-owner, until the voice of God called him forth, and Trajan sought for him again to make him a captain in his army.

While he was with the army he found his wife and children once more, by an unexpected happiness, and re-entered the city of Rome as a conquering soldier amid the loud applause of all men, but thereupon, when he was commanded to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving for the victory to the gods that are no gods, he stoutly refused.  They tried him in vain with divers cajoleries to make him deny Christ, but could not, and he and his wife and little ones were thrown to the lions.  When these beasts would not touch them, the Emperor's fury was kindled, and he commanded them  all to be shut up in the brazen image of a bull, which was heated with fire underneath.  There they praised God until their testimony was ended, and they departed hence to be perfectly blessed for ever and ever, upon the 20th day of September.  Their bodies were buried whole by the faithful, with deep reverence, and were afterwards honourably carried to a Church built in their name."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

** Painting by Pisanello

No comments: