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PRISCUS, MALCHUS, AND ALEXANDER, MARTYRS
From Eus. Hist. b. 7, c. 12, p. 262.
A. D. 260.
THESE eminent Christians, Priscus, Malchus, and Alexander, led a retired holy life in the country near Cæsarea, in Palestine. During the fury of the persecution under Valerian, they often called to mind the triumphs of the martyrs, and secretly reproached themselves with cowardice, as living like soldiers who passed their time in softness and ease, while their brethren and fellow-warriors bore all the heat of the battle. They could not long smother these warm sentiments in their breast; but expressed them to one another. “What,” said they, “while the secure gate of heaven is open, shall we shut it against ourselves? Shall we be so faint-hearted as not to suffer for the name of Christ, who died for us? Our brethren invite us by their example: their blood is a loud voice, which presses us to tread in their steps. Shall we be deaf to a cry calling us to the combat, and to a glorious victory?” Full of this holy ardor, they all, with one mind, repaired to Cæsarea, and of their own accord, by a particular instinct of grace, presented themselves before the governor, declaring themselves Christians. While all others were struck with admiration at the sight of their generous courage, the barbarous judge appeared not able to contain his rage. After having tried on them all the tortures which he employed on other martyrs, he condemned them to be exposed to wild beasts. They are honored on this day in the Roman Martyrology.
In consecrating ourselves to the service of God, and to his pure love, the first and most essential condition is that we do it without reserve, with an earnest desire of attaining to the perfection of our state, and a firm resolution of sparing nothing, and being deterred by no difficulties from pursuing this end with our whole strength; and it must be our chief care constantly to maintain, and always increase this desire in our souls. Upon this condition depends all our spiritual progress. This is more essential in a religious state than the vows themselves; and it is this which makes the difference betwixt the fervent and the lukewarm Christian. Many deceive themselves in this particular, and flatter themselves their resolution of aspiring after perfection, with all their strength, is sincere, whereas it is very imperfect. Of this we can best judge by their earnestness to advance in a spirit of prayer, and in becoming truly spiritual; in crucifying self-love, overcoming their failings, and cutting off all occasions of dissipation, and all impediments of their spiritual advancement. Mortification and prayer, which are the principal means, present usually the greatest difficulties: but these, as St. Terasa observes, are better than half vanquished and removed by a firm resolution of not being discouraged by any obstacles, but of gathering from them fresh vigor and strength. Patience and fortitude crown in the saints what this fervent resolution began.