St Mark and St Marcellian

Martyrs (entered heaven on this day in 286)

Dear Marsha,

I am sorry to hear that things at home haven’t improved.  But you know, God isn’t absent from all this.  He’s the one who called you to the consecrated life, knowing all the while that your parents would resist it tooth and nail.  Your suffering at their resistance is certainly going to be a source of grace for them, if you stay faithful to Christ.  Your situation reminds me, a little bit, of the difficult situation faced by today’s saints.

Mark and Marcellian were twin brothers born of pagan Roman parents in the late Roman Empire.   They were actually from a noble family, and had married well after converting to Christianity in their youth, though their wives weren’t Christian.

During the first wave of persecution under the Emperor Diocletian, the brothers were betrayed as Christians and arrested, imprisoned and condemned to death by beheading (it was illegal to be a Christian, because Christians refused to worship the state gods, which made them look like traitors to Rome).  Some powerful friends obtained a delay in their execution (so that the case could be appealed), during which they were kept in house arrest, under the watchful eye of one of the public magistrates named Nicostratus.

During these tense weeks, their families (parents, wives, young children) would visit them every day, pleading with them to renounce their faith, or at least to offer a bit of incense to the pagan gods, even while keeping the Christian faith in their hearts.  But the brothers were firm.  And their firmness was reinforced by the daily visits of one of the imperial officers, St Sebastian, who came to encourage them and talk with their families.

The crisis continued – the brothers wondering about their fate, the family engaging in long conversations with Sebastian… And little by little the light of faith dawned not only Mark and Marcellian’s parents, but also on their wives, and even on the prosecutor who had condemned them and on their warden, Nicostratus.  The twins were freed and their families were baptized.

It was a short respite, however.  They were soon betrayed again, condemned again, and tortured by being bound to pillars to which their feet were nailed.  After two days they were executed with a lance.

God’s Providence guides us all, my bright young niece.  And if you are faithful to him, no matter how hard it may get sometimes, he will faithfully take care of all those you love.

Your concerned uncle,

Eddy

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