During the high liturgical period of Lent, Holy Week and Easter week, most Saint days become invisible to the Church, although calendar dates are still marked down. But in the next few weeks, as we journey downhill from the great festival of Easter – the Christian Pasch – the Saints appear once more, like stars in the sky after twilight.
And today, we have two wonderful characters. First, there’s the martyr pope, the Holy Father Martin I (d. AD 656). Here’s the entry for him in the Roman Martyrology:
“Saint Martin the First, pope and martyr, who condemned the heresy of monothelitism at the Lateran synod, then by the command of the emperor Constans II and following an attack on the Lateran basilica by the exarch Calliopas was taken from his seat and led to Constantinople and there set to forced labour, before being removed to the Crimea, where after about two years he received the end of his suffering and his eternal crown.”Roman Martyrology, April 13
The impious emperor, resident in Constantinople, had attacked the pope in his own cathedral in Rome, at the Lateran basilica. The pope had refused to back down when the emperor had decided to end the discussion about the number of wills in Christ. The Church had decided that Christ, having two natures divine and human, had two wills divine and human, but both perfectly united to each other. Mono-thel-itism declared that Christ had but one will. The pope’s Lateran synod was determined to take a stand and had dared to condemn the emperor. So Constans sent soldiers to abduct the pope and Martin I was led to Constantinople and to months of prison, sickness and all-around ill-treatment. Then, he was exiled to the Crimea and utter poverty, deserted by all his friends, a martyr for the freedom of the Church from the tyranny of the political State.
Then there’s the Visigoth prince, Hermenegild. In the early ‘middle ages,’ the territories of the old Roman Empire in the West were successfully invaded by several Germanic tribes and as the empire continued to crumble the Roman legions gave way before the invaders. While the Vandals passed through Hispania and into north Africa, the Visigoths settled themselves in what we would call Spain today. Hermenegild was the son of king Leovigild of the Visigoth, by his first wife Theodosia, and had been given the rule of Seville. The family, like the Germanic tribes at large, subscribed to the Arian heresy, which attempted to separate Christ’s humanity from His divinity. But Hermenegild had married the daughter of the Frankish king Sigibert, and the lady was a Catholic. Inevitably, Hermenegild became a Catholic and his father turned enemy to him; unable to withstand the military power of his father, and receiving no help from the Romans, he sought refuge in a church building at Osseto. Tricked into leaving the church, Hermenegild was removed from power, imprisoned at Seville, and, having refused Holy Communion from a heretic Arian bishop, was summarily executed in AD 586. This is his entry in the Martyrology:
“At Tarracon in Spain, Saint Hermenegild, martyr, who being the son of the Arian king Leovigild of the Visigoths, converted to the Catholic faith by the bishop Saint Leander, when he made away from his father’s command and had been incarcerated and refused to receive Communion on the day of the Paschal festivity from an Arian bishop, he was struck down by the order of his own father and died.”Roman Martyrology, April 13