St Almachius

Martyr (entered heaven around 400)

Dear Mack,

The only question I have for you is whether you went to Mass today.  The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, is of no small significance, which is why the Church has made it a day on which all the faithful gather together to give thanks to God and beg him to renew his blessings.  The additional demarcation of January 1st as the World Day of Peace follows naturally – who are greater peacemakers than mothers, and who among mothers is greater than Mary?  Finally, of course, starting off the New Year by putting your life with Christ’s on the altar, and receiving Holy Communion to strengthen you for the coming adventure – that is by far the wisest course to follow.

But I know you, and I know that you will be sorely tempted to camp out in front of the TV as soon as you get up (which won’t be very early, probably, if you spent last night the way you usually spend New Year’s Eve) and not folding up your tent until the last whistle has blown and the last Bowl game has ended, sometime around midnight.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against football, but I tremble when I think of you actually preferring the Pigskin to the Host. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that St Almachius is also commemorated on this day.

Remember his story?  He was a hermit who grew in holiness for many years in the deserts somewhere in the Middle East (history has not recorded where).  Moved by the Holy Spirit, he made his way to the great city of Rome around the year 400, for an odd purpose. Even though Christianity had been made the preferred religion of the Empire by that time, still the infamous gladiatorial combats were regularly held in the Roman coliseum – leftover barbarities, I guess you could call them.  The Romans loved those “sporting events,” which inevitably culminated in unjust and bloody deaths for valiant men. In any case, Almachius arrived in Rome when one such “bowl game” (the Coliseum was the model for all future stadiums, and it looks uncannily more like a bowl than any site used for football) was in full swing. He entered the amphitheater, climbed down to the arena floor, and interposed himself between the primary combatants, doing his best to separate them, invoking the name of the Lord.  The fans, thirsty for blood, were furious, and hurled every manner of the projectile at the unprotected monk, stoning him to death. Fortunately, the Emperor heard about the affair and took it as a sign from God. From then on, such beastly games were forbidden.

So if you need a boost of faith in order to avoid falling into the age-old sportsman idolatry, say a prayer to St Almachius.  And do pray for your uncle today at Mass.

God bless.  Sincerely, Uncle Eddy

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