Today is the feast day of Saints Abdon and Sennen. Orate pro nobis.
The emperor Decius, enemy of Christians, had defeated the king of Persia and become master of several countries over which he reigned. He had already condemned to torture and death Saint Polychrome, with five members of his clergy. Saint Abdon and Saint Sennen, illustrious Persian dignitaries of the third century whom the king of Persia had highly honored, were secretly Christian. It was they who had taken up the body of the martyred bishop, which had been cast contemptuously before a temple of Saturn, to bury them at night, with honor.
The two royal officials, now fallen under the domination of Rome, were grieved to witness the emperor’s cruelty towards the faithful, and believed it their duty to make known their love for Jesus Christ; thus, without fear of their new sovereign, they undertook by all possible means to spread and fortify the faith, to encourage the confessors and bury the martyrs.
Decius, learning of their dedication, was extremely irritated. He sent for the two brothers to appear before his tribunal, and attempted to win them over to sacrifice to the gods. The Saints replied that they could never adore any but Him. Decius imprisoned them. Soon afterwards, when he learned of the death of the viceroy he had left to govern in his place at Rome, he returned to Rome and took his two captives with him to serve as splendid trophies of his Persian victory.
He arraigned them before the Senate, in whose presence they again testified to the divinity of Christ, saying they could adore no other. The next day they were flogged in the amphitheater; then two lions and four bears were released to devour them. But the beasts lay down at their feet and became their guardians, and no one dared approach for a time. Finally the prefect sent out gladiators to slay them with the sword, which with the permission of God was done. Their bodies remained three days without burial, but a subdeacon, who afterwards wrote their history, took them up and buried them on his own terrain. Their glorious martyrdom occurred in the year 254.
In the reign of Constantine their relics were removed to the burying-place of Pontian (called also, from some sign, the “Bear and Cap” Ad Ursum Pileatum), situated near the Tiber on the road to Porto; this translation took place in consequence of a vision wherein the martyrs revealed their place of burial. These particulars are derived from their late and unreliable “acts”, but the veneration of SS. Abdon and Sennen in Rome can be traced back to the fourth century.
Image: Sants Abdó i Senén. Artist: Jaume Huguet (1459-60) (3)