First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

(entered heaven around 64)

Dear Romeo,

Funny that your folks named you after the Shakespearean tragic hero, whose name just happens to coincide with today’s saints (you should have heard what they were going to name you – thanks to good old Uncle Eddy you don’t have to carry an extra ink cartridge around so you can sign your name “Durostrumorrus”… it’s a long story).  The only difference is that Shakespeare’s impetuous and passionate youth is famous, while many of the first martyrs of Rome (those who were martyred under Emperor Nero, after he attributed the terrible fire that devastated the city to Christian malice) are anonymous – at least on this side of eternity. Oh, wait a minute, I guess there is another difference as well.  Romeo privately took his own life, because he was unable to suffer the tortures that his family’s sinful quarrels inflicted upon his impassioned heart. Whereas the martyrs of Rome died publicly, covered with tar and burned as living torches, or wrapped in animal skins and thrown to the lions or hunted for sport, simply because they refused to pay allegiance to any god except the One God, Jesus Christ.  

I guess you can say that love was at the root of both deaths: Romeo loved Juliet too much to endure life without her, and the martyrs loved Jesus too much to abandon him to save their lives.  And whose footsteps will you follow in, my dear nephew? What love will you live and die for? What will you be willing to suffer in order to be faithful to your Lord? Will his love keep you strong in the face of life’s challenges (which, if I‘m not mistaken, you have already begun to face)?  Or will you tie the meaning of your life to something perishable, something that someday you will lose: money, fame, pleasure, a relationship? You are not much older than Shakespeare’s Romeo, and you are the same age as many of the Roman martyrs; it could be that your time will soon come to make a choice.  As you ready yourself, count on my prayers.

God bless, Uncle Eddy

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