St Maximus

(entered heaven on May 14th, in 251)

Dear Seamus,

I know that love is powerful, but it can also be blind.  Especially romantic love.  My dear nephew, you are in the throes of a bewitching springtime intoxication.  You have fallen into a spiritual swoon due to an authentic, but passing, amorous infatuation.  Remember, earth is not heaven; that girl is not God.  If she really is the one you are to marry, you better regain your sanity fast, or you are sure to mess things up royally (not to mention falling into certain crass temptations and putting your life of grace in danger).  I think a glance at today’s saint will help you take a step back towards a little bit of BALANCE in your life.

Maximus was a merchant who lived in the great mercantile city of Asian Minor, Ephesus (the same city that St Paul had spent so much time in during his missionary journeys).  When the Emperor Decius ordered all Imperial citizens to sacrifice to the Roman gods in order to root Christianity out of the declining Empire, Maximus was one of the first in Ephesus to refuse to do so.  He was brought before the Proconsul, who interrogated him at great length.  The conversation was recorded by eye witnesses and is one of those great testaments to Christian courage and eloquence, of which there have been so many through the centuries.

My favorite section of the conversation is the last exchange.  By this point Maximus had professed himself to be a free man, though a slave of Jesus Christ.  He had explicitly acknowledged his Christian faith and renounced the worthless pagan idols.  He had been beaten and tortured and repeatedly invited to burn incense to the Roman gods (notice, they didn’t ask him to renounce Christ, just to worship some other gods as well… the devil is so subtle sometimes) after each torture, and he had responded only with fortitude and wit.  Here was the last exchange:

Proconsul: “Renounce, wretch, thy obstinate folly, and sacrifice to save thy life.” Maximus: “I shall save it if I do not sacrifice; I shall lose it if I do. Neither your clubs, nor your our iron hooks, nor your fire, give me any pain, because the grace of Jesus Christ dwelleth in me, which will deliver me out of your hands to put me in possession of the happiness of the saints, who have already, in this same conflict, triumphed over your cruelty. It is by their prayers I obtain this courage and strength which you see in me.”  With that, the infuriated official had him stoned to death to teach the other Christians a lesson.

This is our faith, my sentimental young nephew.  A faith of self-denial and self-mastery, a faith that puts love into deeds of fidelity and self-sacrifice.  If you really love this new lady in your life, you will show it not by passionate rendezvous in the dark, but by noble deeds of Christian virtue – cost what they may – around the clock.

Your loving uncle,


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