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SS. MARCUS AND MARCELLIANUS, MARTYRS
From the acts of St. Sebastian. See Tillemont, t. 4; Baronius ad an. 286, n. 23.
A. D. 286.
MARCUS and MARCELLIANUS were twin brothers of an illustrious family in Rome, had been converted to the faith in their youth, and were honorably married. Dioclesian ascended the imperial throne in 284; soon after which the heathens raised tumultuary persecutions, though this emperor had not yet published any new edicts against the church. These martyrs were thrown into prison, and condemned by Chromatius, lieutenant of the prefect of Rome, to be beheaded. Their friends obtained a respite of the execution for thirty days, that they might prevail with them to comply with the judge, and they wore removed into the house of Nicostratus the public register. Tranquillinus and Martia, their afflicted heathen parents, in company with their sons’ own wives and their little babes at their breasts, endeavored to move them by the most tender entreaties and tears. St. Sebastian, an officer of the emperor’s household, coming to Rome soon after their commitment, daily visited and encouraged them. The issue of the conferences was the happy conversion of the father, mother, and wives, also of Nicostratus, and soon after of Chromatius, who set the saints at liberty, and abdicating the magistracy retired into the country. Marcus and Marcellianus were hid by Castulus, a Christian officer of the household, in his apartments in the palace; but they were betrayed by an apostate named Torquatus, and retaken. Fabian, who had succeeded Chromatius, condemned them to be bound to two pillars with their feet nailed to the same. In this posture they remained a day and a night, and on the following day were stabbed with lances, and buried in the Arenarium, since called their cemetery, two miles out of Rome, between the Appian and Ardeatine roads. All the ancient Martyrologies mark their festival on the 18th of June.
Virtue is often false, and in it the true metal is not to be distinguished from dross until persecution has applied the touchstone, and proved the temper. We know not what we are till we have been tried. It costs nothing to say we love God above all things, and to show the courage of martyrs at a distance from the danger; but that love is sincere which has stood the proof. “Persecution shows who is a hireling, and who a true pastor,” says St. Bernard.1