St Felix of Thibiuca

Bishop and martyr (entered heaven in 303)

Dear Heidi,

Sometimes I think the printing press was a bad invention.  It has caused so many books to be written and distributed that THE book has been relegated to just one among many.  How many people do you know people who truly revere the Bible? Don’t you see even your fellow Catholics treat the Sacred Word carelessly?  Don’t they leave it on the floor, let the inelegant missalettes get dog-eared tattered, spill coffee on their portable New Testaments?… And that’s in the best of cases – i.e. when they actually still read the Holy Texts.  From what I gather, it is becoming more and more fashionable to study other “sacred” works, as if the Bible were one good book among many. Humph. I have little patience for such syncretism these days. The Bible is unique, as I am sure you remember, and it is the living Word of the One True God.  Today’s saint had at least that much clear.

Under Diocletian’s persecution of the Church, many Christians were intimidated into turning over to the pagans their copies of the Sacred Scriptures and the liturgical books (books were considerably rarer in those days, and much more valuable).  If they made such a gesture, their punishment was lessened, and, unfortunately, scores of Christians cracked under pressure. It was an intelligent tactic on the part of the Emperor, because handing over the holy books seemed much less sinful than burning incense to pagan gods, so Christians were often confused and tricked into acts of sacrilege that they didn’t fully appreciate, but which served to undermine their faith.  Today’s saint, however, wasn’t confused or tricked. He knew very well that giving the Sacred Books over to be burned was an offense against God, a sacrilegious and ungrateful act. And so he refused to comply, and he encouraged the Christians in his North African diocese as well to keep the books hidden. As the persecution spread, he was apprehended and commanded to turn over all the Church books to be burned. He answered simply: “Better that I myself be burned.”  His courage piqued the authorities, and they had him bound in chains, packed into a ship’s hold (he was given no food or water for four days), and carted off to Rome for trial by the Emperor. On his way to the Eternal City, groups of Christians greeted him with great respect wherever he stopped, and were reinforced in their faith and courage. Nevertheless, his path led to the court, where the prefect asked him two questions: do you posses the Christian books (he answered yes) and will you turn them over to be burned (he answered no).  Without further ado he was beheaded.

What do you think St Felix would opine about the careless, take-for-granted attitude so many Christians have towards the Bible in this post-printing press era?  I doubt he would be much edified. I am confident, however, that he would find in you a witness of respect and reverence not too distant from his own.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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