ST. FLAVIA DOMITILLA, V. M.
SHE was niece to the consul and martyr. St.
Flavius Clemens, being the daughter of his sister, as Eusebius
testifies;1 consequently she was little niece of the emperor
Domitian, who, having put to death her illustrious uncle, banished
her for her faith into Pontia. There she lived with her holy eunuchs,
Nereus and Achilleus, in exercises of devotion, they all dwelling in
separate cells, which remained standing three hundred years after.
St. Jerom tells us, that St. Paula, going from Rome to Jerusalem,
took this island in her way, visited them with respect and devotion,
and by the sight of them was animated with fervor. That father calls
her banishment a long martyrdom. Nerva and Trajan were perhaps
unwilling to restore the relations of Domitian with the other exiles
whom they recalled. The acts of SS. Nereus and Achilleus say that she
returned to Terracina and was there burnt under Trajan, because she
refused to sacrifice to idols. Her relics are kept together with
those of SS. Nereus and Achilleus; who, though her servants here on
earth, enjoy an equal honor and condition with her in glory.*
This royal virgin found true happiness and joy in
suffering for virtue, while worldly pomp and honors are only masks
which often cover the basest slavery, and much inward bitterness.
Sinners who seem the most fortunate in the eyes of the world, feel in
their own breasts frequent returns of fear, anxiety, and remorse.
They are only enemies to solitude and retirement, and to all serious
and calm reflection, because they cannot bear to look into
themselves, and tremble at the very sight of their own frightful
wounds. To turn their eyes from themselves, they study to drown their
faculties in a hurry of dissipation, business, or diversion. Nay,
though nauseated and tired with a dull and tasteless repetition of
follies, they choose to repeat them still, for fear of being left
alone, at liberty to think of themselves. But what becomes of them
when sickness, disasters, or a wakeful hour forces them to take a
view of their own miserable state, and the dangers which hang over
them? Their gaudy show of happiness is merely exterior, and only
imposes upon others: but their pangs and agonies are interior: these
they themselves feel. The servant of God, who in his sweet love
enjoys an inward peace and comfort which the whole world cannot rob
him of, carries his paradise within his own breast, whatever storms
hover about him.