Saint Romanus, Martyr

August 9

Today is the feast day of Saint Romanus.  Ora pro nobis.

According to tradition, Saint Romanus was a soldier in the legion of emperor Valerian in Rome, at the time of the arraignment and interrogation of Saint Lawrence. Seeing the joy and constancy and the absolute silence of that holy martyr during Lawrence’s first torments, Romanus could not understand how a creature of flesh and blood could be thus tormented without opening his mouth to complain. 

Romanus was moved to embrace the Faith, and at that very moment.  Addressing himself to Saint Lawrence, still on the rack, he asked to become a Christian. The Saint was untied and imprisoned, and later was able to respond to the pressing request of the soldier, who brought him in prison the water for his baptism.

Romanus was summoned before the tribunal, for everyone soon learned of his conversion. He said fearlessly and joyfully, there as he had said elsewhere, I am a Christian! He was condemned and beheaded immediately, the day before the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, on August 9, 258. The body of Saint Romanus was buried by a priest in a cavern on the road to Tibur, but his remains were translated to Lucca, where they are kept under the high altar of a beautiful church which bears his name.

A Roman martyr Romanus is mentioned in the “Liber Pontificalis” (ed. Duchesne, I, 155) with three other ecclesiastics as companions in the martyrdom of St. Lawrence (10 August, 258). There is no reason to doubt that this mention rests upon a genuine ancient tradition. Like St. Lawrence Romanus was buried in the Catacomb of the Cyriaca on the Via Tiburtina.

The grave of St. Romanus is explicitly mentioned in the Itineraries of the seventh century (De Rossi, “Roma sotterranea”, I, 178-9). In the purely legendary Acts of St. Lawrence, the ostiary Romanus is transformed into a soldier, and an account in accordance with this statement was inserted in the historical martyrologies and in the present Roman Martyrology, which latter places his feast on 9 August (cf. Duchfourcq, Les Gesta Martyrum romains”, I, 201).

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
“Fear not, my servant, for I am with you, says the Lord. If you pass through fire, the flame will not hurt you, and the odour of fire will not be in you. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you out of the hand of the mighty” (Isaias xliii.; Jeremias xv.). It was the hour of combat, and Wisdom, more powerful than flame, was calling on Laurence to win the laurels of victory presaged by his very name. The three days since the death of Sixtus had passed at length, and the deacon’s exile was about to close: he was soon to stand beside his Pontiff at the altar in Heaven, and never more to be separated from him. But before going to perform his office as deacon in the eternal sacrifice, he must on this Earth, where the seeds of eternity are sown, give proof of the brave faithfulness which becomes a Levite of the Law of Love. Laurence was ready. He had said to Sixtus: “Try the fidelity of the minister to whom you entrusted the dispensation of the Blood of our Lord.” He had now, according to the Pontiff’s wish, distributed to the poor the treasures of the Church, as the chants of the Liturgy tell us on this very morning. But he knew that if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he will despise it as nothing (Canticles viii. 7), and he longed to give himself as well. Overflowing with joy in his generosity he hailed the holocaust whose sweet perfume he seemed already to perceive rising up to Heaven. And well might he have sung the offertory of this Vigil’s Mass: “My prayer is pure, and therefore I ask that a place be given to my voice in heaven: for my judge is there, and he that knowes my conscience is on high: let my prayer ascend to the Lord” (Job xvi.).

Sublime prayer of the just man which pierces the clouds! Even now we can say with the Church: “His seed will be mighty upon earth,” (Psalms cxi.) the seed of new Christians sprung from the blood of martyrdom; for today we greet the first fruits thereof in the person of Romanus, the neophyte whom his first torments won to Christ, and who preceded him to Heaven. (6)

Image: Saints on South Colonnade, St Peter’s, Rome, Artist:  Sculptor – Lazzaro Morelli; Statue Installed – c.1665-1667, This statue is part of a group of 24 that were placed between September 1662 and March 1667. Height – 3.1 m. (10ft 4in) travertine (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


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