St Polyeuctus

Martyr (entered heaven on January 10th, in 250)

Dear Polly,

Take courage, my much esteemed niece!  It is not for a young Christian soldier like you to be discouraged by obstacles.  If those who propagate unchristian ideas and morals are lashing out at you, take the lashes and keep up your good work.  If the devil is pursuing his other tactic, stirring up discouragement or disgust or other such temptations on the inside, redouble the intensity of your prayer (not the TIME, but the INTENSITY, the sincerity) and keep your attention focused on God’s will, not on yourself.  And if you fall anyway, look to the merciful Lord who will never abandon you, ask for forgiveness, get up, and keep going.  If you keep your heart turned towards Christ, nothing – I mean NO-THING – will hold you back.  Don’t take my word for it, take history’s word for it, like the history of today’s saint.

He was a rich (and pagan) officer in the Roman Legions, living a glamorous (well, at least a somewhat indulgent) life in Armenia, when a new decree against Christians reached that far outpost of the Roman Empire in the third century.  With news of the decree, a Christian friend of his immediately realized that he would soon be apprehended and executed for his faith.  That meant that there was no more time left for a patient, long-term process of converting Polyeuctus to Christ.  Inspired by the urgency of the situation, the friend redoubled his efforts to convince the future saint of Christ’s truth and love, and the grace of God won a full victory in Polyeuctus’s heart.  So complete was the transformation, that the former Roman officer publicly shredded the Emperor’s decree of persecution, and broke up a pagan religious procession by smashing the idols it was carrying along.

He was immediately apprehended and imprisoned.  Then he was tortured in order to make him change his mind and return to the pagan state religion.  But his courage didn’t budge.  His torturers eventually tired of their fruitless efforts, and fell to arguing with him instead.  They even brought his wife and children into the interrogation process, hoping that their cries and pleadings would convince the former Legionary to return to the Emperor’s fold.  But through it all Polyeuctus defended the true faith, explaining his newfound allegiance to a much worthier Emperor, Jesus Christ.  Finally he was condemned.  But he received his sentence with such joy, and admonished the crowds with such fervor, that he left a wake of converts behind him as he made his way to the place of execution, where he was beheaded as a traitor to the State.

His remarkable example made him one of Christendom’s favorite intercessors all through antiquity and the Middle Ages.  And I trust that it will suffice to inspire you as well – perhaps even more, in fact, since the conditions of a modern college campus are more similar to the conditions in ancient, pagan Armenia than they are to medieval Christendom.

Your loving uncle,


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