Today is the feast day of Saint Apollonius. Ora pro nobis.
At Rome, commemoration of Saint Apollonius, philosopher and martyr. Under the Emperor Commodus, he defended, before the Prefect Perennius and the Senate, the cause of the Christian faith in a finely argued address, and then, after being condemned to death, confirmed it by the witness of his blood (3)
Nothing is known about Saint Apollonius early life. He was a Roman Senator and member of the Roman elite. (3)
Apollonius had spent years in study and was extremely familiar with the major philosophers and schools of thought in the second century Roman empire. He developed an interest in the Jewish scriptures and this led him to Christian writings. Eventually, Apollonius converted to Christianity because of the witness and testimonies of the early Church members, but continued to study the beliefs and convictions of those he had left behind, hoping to bring them to conversion with himself. As a member of the Roman Senate, he knew well the law forbidding the practice of Christianity. However, he felt drawn to live a life rich in the grace and love of Christ, and was confident that the Roman rulers would not punish him for this. (3)
In the midst of the peace which the Church enjoyed, Saint Apollonius was publicly accused of Christianity by one of his own slaves. What followed evokes our surprise. Marcus Aurelius, during his reign, had published an edict ordering that the accusers of Christians be put to death, but he had done so without repealing the former laws against convicted Christians. Thus the slave was immediately condemned to have his legs broken and be put to death. (1)
As Perennis, the Praetorian prefect who had arrested him, brought Apollonius to his trials he pleaded with him to renounce his faith. He insisted that if he said the words and apostatized, even if he “didn’t mean it,” those in power were all too willing to find him not guilty of the crime. He reminded Apollonius that the punishment for being a Christian was death and insisted that the right course of action for a senator like Apollonius was to renounce his faith and maintain his influence and power in the world. (3)
The Saint courageously rejected such ignominious terms of safety, whereupon the judge referred him to the Roman senate, to give an account of his faith to that body, very hostile to Christians.
The martyr hereupon composed an excellent discourse, but which has not reached our times, in vindication of the Christian religion, and spoke it in a full senate. St. Jerom, who had perused it, did not know whether more to admire the eloquence, or the profound learning, both sacred and profane, of its illustrious author: who, persisting in his refusal to comply with the condition, was condemned by a decree of the senate, and beheaded, about the year 186, of Commodus the sixth. (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff