During the last two days, the Church presented us with the feasts of two different martyrs. One of them was St. Eustace and the other was the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. Each of them planted the faith in different ways. One of them was one of the Twelve apostles and the first to write about his experiences. The other is much more mysterious and yet honored for being the patron saint of hunters and for his heroic perseverance under torture.
Today is the feast of a great legion of martyrs. St. Maurice and the Theban legion had been sent out by the Emperor Maximian to defend Roman interests in Switzerland. Before the battle, it was a Roman tradition to have a sacrifice performed to the Roman gods. The entire legion refused and the commander ordered one out of every ten to be killed. When the soldiers still refused, he ordered another decimation. Urged on by St. Maurice, none of the soldiers recanted their faith. Eventually, all of them were massacred including St. Maurice. St. Maurice’s body is housed in a Swiss abbey that is named after him, St. Moritz.
What is it about St. Maurice and the Theban legion that brought them to stand so manfully for their beliefs. Above all, it was their great love of God that allowed them to die for their faith. If they had had less faith, they most certainly would have been horrified by the punishment that was meted out to their brethren and would have immediately recanted. But this was not the case, all of them died including St. Maurice, their leader in more ways than one.
In some ways, St. Maurice and the Theban legion can be seen as models for Christian soldiers all over the world. Due to their ardent faith and belief in God, they were able to fight victoriously in whatever battle they were engaged. It was due to this same faith that they were able to endure horrific torture for the sake of Christ. All Christian soldiers should imitate St. Maurice and his companion for their courage, faith, and love, but what about us? What should we learn from this story?
If anything, we need to understand that standing for what is right may not be the best thing in the eyes of the world. In our day to day lives, we are often presented with opportunities for doing this. Sometimes, we may be asked to endorse an issue on a ballot that we know the Church does not sanction. At school, we may hear someone say an uncouth word. Even at home, people can say and do things that we know are wrong. When confronted with these situations, what do we do? Do we cower and run away or do we say something that can be taken as an example of our belief in God?
Very often, it is true, doing what is right can be very difficult and well nigh impossible. We must attempt it anyway. Even if we know that our action will bring down all hell upon our heads, we must pray to God and ask Him to help us. Nobody can stand in God’s way of righteousness and nobody can take us away from Him save our own sins.
Therefore, let us march as Catholic soldiers and let ask St. Maurice and the Theban legion to help us and protect us against enemies whether corporeal or incorporeal.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Maurice and the Theban legion, pray for us!