Can you believe that we have already come to the end of the first half of ? Tomorrow we begin the second half, and the third quarter, of this year of ours. So today, let us thank God for the blessings and graces of this first half of the year, and reconsecrate ourselves to the glory of God in the second half which begins tomorrow.
I find it interesting to reflect upon today’s commemoration; it is that of the martyrs of the early church in Rome. In its cruel attempts to destroy Christianity, the pagan Roman Empire killed as many popes, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity as it could, thinking that that was the way the Church would be destroyed. But, as the church father Tertullian so astutely observed, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” Our faith is the harvest of their blood.
In that connection, I think so often of our Dominican headquarters in the city of Rome. It is located in the church and priory of Santa Sabina on the top of the Aventine Hill, the tallest of Rome’s famed seven hills. When you walk down that hill in one of the directions by which it can be approached, you come to the Circus Maximus, the largest of all of ancient Rome’s historical amphitheaters. We know that more Christians died there by various forms of terrible slaughter than anywhere else. Now, it is a quiet park-like place where people jog, or stroll, or walk their dogs. But for years, it rang with the howls of blood-thirsty mobs whom the emperors entertained with their famous “bread and circuses”—the main means they used to keep the people of Rome from turning to seditious behavior like rebellion and riots, wanting more bread and more entertainment.
I have walked in that amphitheater, and reflected upon the soil under my feet. I have prayed to those who died there, and been grateful to them for their blood and sufferings upon which the Christian community of the world is built. Their blood soaked that arena, and now at the top of the adjacent Aventine Hill, our headquarters Santa Sabina stands, along with the Benedictine abbey of San Anselmo, and the headquarters of the Knights of Malta, a religious confraternity. And just a short distance away, there is the ancient church of San Clemente, built above the home of the fourth pope, Saint Clement of Rome, another of the martyrs of ancient Rome. Just a half-block away from that is a Benedictine convent of nuns who raise lambs whose wool is used to make the pallia, or special stoles worn by popes and archbishops. Just yesterday, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, our Holy Father conferred the pallium on about 35 new archbishops, indicating their special bond between themselves and their dioceses with the Church of Rome, and its bishop, the pope.
Interesting ideas! And precious gifts given by Our Lord Jesus Christ to his Church and us, its members. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago