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The Four Crowned Martyrs
(entered heaven around 306)
Lovely reviews of your latest play – thanks for forwarding them to me. Clearly, you have a real talent in things theatrical, seeing as you are able to please such divergent reviewers. Keep up the good work – heaven knows how desperately we need a renaissance of Christian inspiration in the world of arts and entertainment. Watch your back, though – few fields of endeavor are so ferociously beset by temptations. I personally know of a dozen talented artists who involved themselves in dubious productions as a way to build up their contacts, and have ended up as moral and religious basket cases. You may want to take today’s saints as personal patrons.
There are conflicting legends about these four martyrs, but it seems that they were stone workers and sculptors involved in the grand building projects undertaken by the maniacal Emperor Diocletian. He commissioned them a few jobs, which they completed so expertly that he granted them an exemption from having to carve statures of pagan gods, which they had refused to do. It was a big exemption (which shows you how pleased the emperor was with their artistry), seeing as Christians throughout the empire were being cruelly tortured and executed for similar refusals. The emperor even commended Christianity as the cause of their particularly inspired sculpting. But it seems that some others working on the projects fell into the grips of envy or jealousy, and stirred up opposition to the Christian artists. Claudius, Nicostratus, Symphorius, and Castratus were therefore jailed. Diocletian continued to treat them leniently, until an official’s untimely death was superstitiously traced back to the Christians’ refusal to sacrifice to the Roman gods. At that point, public outcry demanded “justice,” and after refusing to abandon their faith, the workmen were sealed inside lead boxes and thrown into the river to drown.
Consider well their example, my dear nephew. You may find yourself in an analogous situation some day, where success, fame, and wealth will be yours if you are willing to use your talents to please men at the expense of displeasing God. Make up your mind now to stay faithful even if it’s tough, and you will save yourself moral agonies later.