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SS. MARCELLUS AND VALERIAN, MARTYRS
From St. Gregory of Tours,1. De Glor. Mart. c. 54, and the Acts of their Martyrdom, Inserted in the Chronicle of Tournus, compiled by Falco, monk of that place, in the eleventh age, published by F. Peter Fr. Chifflet, at Dijon, in 1664, in an appendix to his Histoire de Tournus.
A. D. 179.
ANTONINUS PIUS and his adopted son and successor, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, surnamed the Philosopher, were renowned for their wisdom, moderation, and attention to the good of the Roman empire. The latter is no less admirable for the government of himself, if his meditations† are the portraiture of his practice. His virtues and wise administration are represented to advantage by Crevier; but their lustre is not without shades. In the very book of his meditations, where he commends necessary resignation to death, he condemns that of the Christians,1 which he ascribes to mere obstinacy. Their constancy he had experienced, having raised the fifth general persecution of the Church, and published fresh edicts, by which he commanded Christians to be punished with death, as is attested by Saint Melito, quoted by Eusebius.2 After his victory over the Quadi and Marcomanni, in 174 he ordered peace to be restored to the Christians; but did not check the fury of the populace, or of particular governors, who, in several places, often availed themselves of former laws made against them.
The horrible massacre of the martyrs at Lyons and Vienna happened in the year 177. In the former of these cities Marcellus and Valerian withdrew themselves from the tempest by a seasonable flight, and preached the gospel in the neighboring provinces, and were crowned with martyrdom it 179. Marcellus was apprehended in the country near Chalons, and, after enduring many torments in that city was buried alive up to the middle, in which posture he died on the third day, which was the 4th day of September. St. Valerian fell into the hands of the persecutors near Tournus, a town built on the Saone, between Macon and Challons. After suffering the rack and being torn with iron hooks, he was beheaded at Tournus on the 15th of September. The relics of St. Marcellus are honorably kept in the great church which bears his name at Challons, and belongs to a royal monastery, which king Gontran founded in his honor. A church was built at Tournus over the tomb of St. Valerian, before the time of St. Gregory of Tours.3 SS. Marcellus and Valerian are honored as the apostles of that country. The great abbey of St. Valerian at Tournus is the head of a monastic congregation to which it gives its name. It was a small monastery when, in 875, Charles the Bald gave it to the monks of the Isle of Nermoutier, or Ner, or Hero, on the coast of Poitou, who had been expelled by the Normans. They carried with them the relics of St. Filibert, or Filbert, their founder. This abbey was rebuilt in 1018; from which time it took the name of St. Filbert. In the sixteenth age the Huguenots plundered this church, and burnt part of the relics of St. Valerian; but the principal portion escaped their sacrilegious search. The abbey of Tournus was converted into a college of secular canons in 1627; only the dignity of abbot was retained with an extensive jurisdiction and large revenue. It was enjoyed in commendam by cardinal Fleury.
The two holy martyrs, whom we honor on this day, made the whole tenor of their lives a preparation to martyrdom, because they devoted it entirely to God by the constant exercise of all virtues. To be able to stand our ground in the time of trial, and to exercise the necessary acts of virtue in the article of death, we must be thoroughly grounded in strong habits of all virtues; and we shall not otherwise exert them readily on sudden and difficult occasions. He whose soul is well regulated, and in whose heart virtue has taken deep root, finds its practice easy, and, as it were, natural in times of sickness, persecution, or other occasions. Nay, he makes everything that occurs matter of its exercise, subjects to himself even obstacles, and converts them into occasions of exerting the most noble and heroic virtues, such as resignation, patience, charity, and good-will toward those who oppose or persecute him.