ST. LEONIDES, M.
THE emperor Severus, in the year 202, which was
the tenth of his reign raised a bloody persecution, which filled the
whole empire with martyrs, but especially Egypt. The most illustrious
of those, who by their triumphs ennobled and edified the city of
Alexandria, was Leonides, father of the great Origen. He was a
Christian philosopher, and excellently versed both in the profane and
sacred sciences. He had seven sons, the eldest of whom was Origen,*
whom he brought up with abundance of care, returning God thanks for
having blessed him with a son of such an excellent disposition for
learning, and a very great zeal for piety. These qualifications
endeared him greatly to his father, who, after his son was baptized,
would come to his bedside while he was asleep, and, opening his
bosom, kiss it respectfully, as being the temple of the Holy Ghost.
When the persecution raged at Alexandria under Lætus, governor
of Egypt, in the tenth year of Severus Leonides was cast into prison.
Origen, who was then only seventeen years of age, burned with an
incredible desire of martyrdom, and sought every opportunity of
meeting with it. But his mother conjured him not to forsake her: and
seeing his ardor redoubled at the sight of his father’s chains,
was forced to lock up all his clothes to oblige him to stay at home.
So, not being able to do any more, he wrote a letter to his father in
very moving terms, strongly exhorting him to look on the crown that
was offered him with courage and joy; adding this clause: “Take
heed, sir, that for our sakes you do not change your mind.”
Leonides was accordingly beheaded for the faith, in 202. His estates
and goods being all confiscated and seized for the emperor’s
use, his widow was left with seven children to maintain, in the
poorest condition imaginable; but divine providence was both her
comfort and support. Suidas informs us, that St. Leonides was honored
with the episcopal character; which Dom. Vincent de la Rue confirms
by the authority of two Vatican MS. copies of St. Jerom’s
catalogue of illustrious writers. See Euseb. Hist.1. 6, c. 12, and
Chron. ad an. 10, Severi. Also St. Jerom, Catal. c. 54.