Today is the feast day of Saint Marcellus, the Centurion, and His Children. Orate pro nobis.
It is believed that Saint Marcellus was born in Arzas of Galicia. A brave pagan, he entered upon the career of arms, hoping to gain a large fortune. He married a young lady named Nona and they were blessed with twelve children. Saint Marcellus was a valorous solider and was promoted to the charge of centurion; he had no thought for any advancement except the sort pertaining to his military life, when he heard the fervent preaching of a holy bishop of the church of Leon. He was converted with his entire family to the Christian religion. All of them except his wife would soon give their blood in honor of their Faith.
The birthday of the Emperor Maximian Herculeus was celebrated in the year 298 with extraordinary feasting and solemn rites. Marcellus, as a centurion of the army, a captain in the legion of Trajan then posted in Mauritania or Spain, in order not to defile himself in these impious sacrifices, left his company, throwing down his cincture and his arms and declaring aloud that he was a soldier of Jesus Christ, the eternal King. (1)
Marcellus, not to defile himself with taking part in those impious abominations, cast away his military belt at the head of his company, declaring aloud that he was a soldier of Jesus Christ, the eternal King. He also threw down his arms and the vine-branch, which was the mark of his post of centurion; for the Roman officers were forbid to strike a soldier with any instrument except a vine-branch, which the centurions usually carried in their hands. The soldiers informed Anastasius Fortunatus, prefect of the legion, by whose order Marcellus was committed to prison. When the festival was over, this judge ordered Marcellus to be brought before him, and asked him what he meant by his late proceedings.
Marcellus said, “When you celebrated the emperor’s festival on the 12th before the calends of August, (the day on which Maximian had been declared Cæsar,) I said aloud that I was a Christian, and could serve no other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Fortunatus told him that it was not in his power to connive at his rashness, and that he was obliged to lay his case before the emperor Maximian and Constantius Cæsar. Spain was immediately subject to Constantius, who was at that time Cæsar, and most favourable to the Christians. But Marcellus was sent under a strong guard to Aurelian Agricolaus, vicar to the prefect of the prætorium, who was then at Tangier, in Africa. Agricolaus asked him whether he had really done as the judge’s letter set forth: and upon his confessing the fact, the vicar passed sentence of death upon him for desertion and impiety, as he called his action. St. Marcellus was forthwith led to execution and beheaded, on the 30th of October. His relics were afterwards translated from Tangier to Leon in Spain, and are kept in a rich shrine in the chief parish church in that city, of which he is the titular saint. (2)
Cassian, the secretary or notary of the court, refused to record the sentence pronounced against the martyr, because of its injustice. He was immediately hurried to prison, and was beheaded in his turn on the 3rd of December.
The children of Saint Marcellus imitated his constancy, and all lost their lives for the defense of the Gospel; three of the boys were hanged and then decapitated at Leon. Their pious mother bought back their bodies for money and buried them secretly; they were later transferred to a church built in their honor in the city of Leon. (1)
Image: Orthodox icon of Saint Marcellus and Cassian of Tangier. (3)
Research by REGINA Staff