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St Rufus and St Zosimus
Martyrs, (entered heaven around 107)
Home for the holidays, eh? Are you happy, or depressed? I seem to remember that you tend to get a little melancholic this time of year. (And I must confess that I share your tendency, especially here in my cubicle/prison. So morose do I feel this time of year that I have taken to making tinsel out of the wires I removed from an old electrical cord. Pitiful, I know.) Well, it will probably be a more intense sentiment of melancholy than you remember, since this year you are adding to the holiday spirit the change of environment; your first college Christmas break will be full of surprises. May I take the liberty to offer a friendly warning? You have made much progress, personally and spiritually (not to mention intellectually) at college this fall. You have successfully left behind the bad influences that plagued you all through high school. Those influences will clamor for a return to power; be ready to resist. Take a lesson from today’s saints.
Rufus and Zosimus were early apostles. They accompanied the great St Ignatius of Antioch on his prisoner’s journey to Rome, where they joined him for martyrdom in the Coliseum – all three were mangled by wild beasts to the degenerate delight of the Roman mobs. Much more than that we don’t really know. Early Christian writings seem to imply that they spread the faith in Asia Minor, the same mission field Ignatius traversed, and that they did a good job at it. They were held up as examples for the early Christian communities even before their martyrdom. Afterwards, they were rightly venerated and emulated as authentic heroes of the faith. Here’s what another pillar of the early Church, St Polycarp of Smyrna (disciple of St John the Evangelist) wrote of them: “They have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness; and they are gone to the place that was due to them from the Lord, with whom they also suffered. For they loved not the present world, but Him who died, and was raised again by God for us.”
How were they able to reach such heights of sanctity? They hung out with the right people – like Ignatius and Polycarp. It’s an old truism that doesn’t always taste good in this epoch so intent on the misunderstood value of “tolerance”, but truism it is: evil friends work evil influence, and fair friends bring fair weather. I trust you will be able to connect the dots here – it’s all about who you’ll be spending time with on your well-earned Christmas vacation.
Your loving uncle,