Saints Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus

Martyrs (entered heaven this day in 229)

Dear Bert,

Congratulations!  A summer internship in Washington DC is certainly a nice fish to catch.  I am sure you will take full advantage of the opportunity in order to complement the theory you’re learning in class with the nitty-gritty of real world politics.  I would issue a wee warning, however: don’t let the glamour eclipse the good.  You are going to have a good time, and you probably will be exposed to some attractive things – power, wealth, fame, influence…  If you aren’t careful, such worldly attractions could easily begin to muffle your conscience and lead you into temptation.  Keeping the example of today’s saints in mind may help inure you from that kind of corruption.

These martyrs were all connected with that mysterious and endearing figure of Saint Cecilia.  She was a Roman noblewoman, young and much sought after for her beauty and graciousness.  She also happened to be a Christian, in an age when Christians lived under the shadow of violent persecution.  As a girl she had vowed her virginity to Christ, so deeply did she love him.  But her parents, who were not Christians, it seems, insisted on arranging a marriage for her.  Thus she was espoused to Valerian, one of the most promising and handsome of noble Roman youths (though not a Christian).

On their wedding night, Cecilia explained her vow to Valerian, and warned him that God had sent her an angel to protect her virginity.  She told him about Jesus and encouraged him to become a believer, make his own vow of virginity to the Lord, and live with her in perfect continence.  He wanted to see the angel (understandable).  She told him he would if he were baptized.  He agreed to be baptized, and afterwards he did indeed see the glorious angel, who gave each of them a crown signifying the victory their faith won them.

This holy couple became a source of other conversions.  First among them was Valerian’s brother, Tiburtius.  But soon their spreading fame exposed them to the merciless Roman law against Christianity.  As Valerian and Tiburtius refused to worship the pagan gods (the supposed protectors of Rome’s earthly glory and wealth), they were executed.  Their courage and composure in the face of death was so remarkable that it converted their guard, Maximus, who ended up joining them on the chopping block.  Cecilia followed a few days later, incompetently executed in her house – severed incompletely at the neck so that she slowly bled to death over the course of forty-eight hours.

These saints were just like you: good education, talent, opportunity… But none of the world’s empty promises could lead them to compromise their faith or their conscience.  I hope the glamour of the high life this summer has as little effect on you.

Your loving uncle,


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