St Ammon and Companions

Martyrs (entered heaven in 250)

Dear Amelia,

Unless I am mistaken, you have your last exam today and will be on the afternoon train home for Christmas break.  I am confident that you will do just fine on your exam (you always do), but I am less confident that you will do equally well on your Christmas break.  If I remember correctly, you have a tendency to let down your spiritual guard when you go home for vacation. At school you have your Compass friends to support you, daily Mass is easy to get to, and you are forced to use your time wisely (more or less) because your assignments have due dates.  At home, you have none of that. What’s more, your old group of friends gets back together, and you reminisce about high school days, and before you know it, you are back in the rut of those less than edifying pastimes that you were so glad to be rid of when you went off to college. I would encourage you to think about this ahead of time and come up with some strategies to resist these temptations.  You might even have to decide not to spend any time at all with certain old “friends” (if they were really your friends they wouldn’t egg you on to do those things, in my opinion). The people we hang out with have a strong effect on us, whether we like it or not, and so we have to take responsibility for choosing our companions. That reminds me of today’s remarkable saints.

You remember that the persecution under Emperor Decius was a particularly grievous one – all Christians were hunted down and invited to burn incense to the Roman gods or suffer the consequences.  In Alexandria, Egypt, the city prefect was particularly zealous in carrying out this imperial edict. One of the Christians he arraigned was rather weak in his faith, and under the pressure of the judge’s questioning, he began to waver.  Well, it just so happens that among the guards in the courtroom were some undercover Christians. They saw what was happening and were afraid that their brother in Christ was going to deny his faith, thus putting at risk his eternal salvation.  So they began to make encouraging signs to him, gesturing, nodding, bulging their eyes – anything they could do without putting themselves into too much danger. But their efforts were so energetic that the magistrate couldn’t help but notice, and when he inquired as to what was going on, five of the soldiers broke ranks and declared themselves Christians.  This, of course, disturbed the Roman officials to no end, but it also renewed the courage of the prisoners. In the end, both the prisoners and the Christian soldiers stayed faithful to Christ and suffered martyrdom. (The soldiers’ names were Ammon, Zeno, Ptolemy, Ingenes, and Theophilus.)

That’s the kind of friend you want to be spending your time with, someone who will boost your faith and reinforce you in moments of weakness and temptation.  That’s also the kind of friend you want to be. So during this vacation, don’t be afraid to be a martyr.

Sincerely, your uncle, Eddy

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