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Feast of St. Secundus

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Mar. 29, 2012

St. Secundus is one of those ancient saints of the Church about whom we have more questions than answers.  We know he lived; we know he died; we know he has been venerated throughout various regions since the earliest centuries of Christianity.  That sums up what we know for sure.  In any attempt to get more specific, we begin to move further from a very limited truth into the realm of speculation and legend—which may not reveal with precision who the man was, but nonetheless points toward the type of man that St. Secundus might have been.  Legends seldom develop around a person who bears absolutely no resemblance to story’s protagonist.

The first legend puts St. Secundus in the city of Asti, where as a young nobleman and officer in the Imperial Army, he rose up from paganism to Christianity through an encounter with the local bishop, Marcian.  As his conversion began to take deeper and deeper roots, he spent many hours ministering to prisoners in the local jails.  Wealthy and well-connected, St. Secundus’ behavior caught the attention of the authorities.  The prefect of the city, Sapricius, was St. Secundus’ friend, and as opposed to bring him up on charges (for Rome was persecuting Christians at the time) he tried to convince St. Secundus to renounce his foolish behavior and embrace paganism, once again.  When he refused, this “friend,” had him beheaded by decree of the Emperor Hadrian.  This legend puts his death around 119—a remarkably early era in the life of the Church.

The second legend locates St. Secundus among the ranks of the Theban Legion.  The Theban Legion was an entire Roman legion that is said to have converted to Christianity while based in Thebes, Egypt.  The legend places the number of men in the legion at 6,666 (an odd number, indeed).  These troops were summoned to serve the Empire in Gaul, and thus began moving as an army.  While at a lay-over in the city of Agaunum (in modern-day Switzerland) the legion, joined by other garrisons and legions of the Imperial Army, was asked to celebrate by offering sacrifice to the emperor.  Needless to say, the invitation was refused.  Every man—all 6,666—stood strong against the pressures to offer sacrifice.  This began a man-by-man execution during which no one succumbed, and every man was martyred.  This account of the Theban Legion, however, occurred under the Emperor Maximian in 286. 

Since as early as the 9th Century, St. Secundus feast has been celebrated on March 29. 

Practical Take-Away: Oblivion & Eternity

Most of us will die and not be remembered.  Sure, our families will cherish our memory, but when it comes to the greater pages of history, we’ll go down as a numerical unit in a census or population, another tombstone on the horizon.  Men may have heard of our name, but they know very little about who we were.  St. Secundus is a good example of that.  We know his name.  Despite the oblivion surrounding this man’s life, we are also sure of one other thing: he has a ‘St.’ before his name.  That means not that we know a single thing more specific about his historical life—but we know an awful lot about his future—he is with God.  And God, the Creator who knit you together in the womb, who has the exact number of the hairs on your head, who sent His Son to die for you and for all—He won’t forget you.  You have been on His minds for all eternity.  History books are really the least of our concerns.  Who cares if you name shows up in the Encyclopedia Britannica (they’ve decided to stop printing them, anyway)?!  What we aim for is having our names recorded in the Book of Life.  There you will not be forgotten—God, His Angels, and His Saints will remember you, because you will be among them.  It is there that you will find out the details of the life of the saint we celebrate today.  St. Secundus, pray for us!