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St Quirinus of Croatia
Bishop of Sisak (Croatia), Martyr (entered heaven this day in 304)
The successes of your junior year are impressive. No doubt I should be a proud uncle – from your perspective, at least. The fact is, I’m not. Even from this distance I can detect the slow but steady disintegration of your willpower. Comfort, ease, popularity… These subtle and seductive idols are making serious inroads in your soul as you bask in the glory of achievement. I fear that your summer plans will only exacerbate the seduction. Not that achievements are evil – on the contrary, you are duty-bound to make your talents bear fruit. But that self-satisfied, smugly arrogant smile you’re wearing (I can see it even in your emails) can hardly be called Christian. Shake it off, my prodigious young nephew, before it’s too late. Maybe a glance at the authentic Christianity of today’s saint will wake you up.
Quirinus was an exemplary bishop who happened to live in Croatia (back then it was a province in Pannonia) at the time when the Roman Tetrarchy (surely you remember that from your history lessons) was on the rocks. The Eastern Augustus was intent on doing away with the Christians, believing that this would somehow help pave the way for his hostile takeover of the rest of the divided Empire. So all the government officials were ordered to purge the Christians from their lands: either they would burn incense to the Roman gods, or they would die.
When the edict arrived at Sisak, where Quirinus was bishop, he shook the dust from his feet and left the city (as per the Gospel injunction: “When they persecute in one city, go on to the next…). But he was the Christian leader, and Maximus, the governing prelate, wanted to make an example of him. The old bishop was therefore pursued, arrested and brought before Maximus.
The interrogation didn’t go very well, from the Roman’s perspective. For every demand and argument of the Roman prelate, the Christian prelate issued a reply superior in both eloquence and courage. Maximus then resorted to less sophisticated tactics, and had the aged priest beaten with clubs, a punishment carried out with excessive cruelty by the sadistic guards. But even then the bishop stood firm.
So he was imprisoned. He converted the guards. So they moved him to a prison under the jurisdiction of the Pannonian Governor, Amantius, who had the power to sentence capital punishment. After a trial held in a theatre, in which Quirinus resisted trickery, cajolery, and threats, humiliating the Governor as much has he had earlier humiliated Maximus, he was condemned to death by drowning.
They tied a millstone around his neck and, under the eyes of a vast crowd gathered to watch the execution, threw him into the river at Sabaria. But miraculously, he didn’t sink. Instead, he preached to the crowds for a long while, perched on top of the miraculously floating millstone, exhorting the Christians to keep the faith and at the same time giving powerful testimony of Christ’s faithfulness. Only after he prayed to be allowed to offer his life as a martyr did the millstone take him under.
That, my bright young nephew, is a real Christian. I suggest you contemplate his example and examine your conscience to see whether you haven’t been cutting corners on your own fidelity to the Lord. As you do, you may find Quirinus’s words to Maximus right after his being beaten by clubs somewhat instructive (and inspirational):
“Quirinus replied [to Maximus]: ‘I am now performing the true function of a priest, in offering myself a sacrifice to the living God. I feel not the blows which my body has received: they give me no torment. I am ready to suffer much greater tortures, that they who have been committed to my charge may be encouraged to follow me to eternal life.’”
Your loving uncle,
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