Saints Marcellinus and Peter were Roman Christians who suffered martyrdom for their faith at the beginning of the fourth century. Marcellinus was a priest in Rome and Peter was an exorcist. (At one point in the Church’s history, exorcists comprised a minor order in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, ranking below deacons and sub-deacons.) During the intense persecution of the Church ordered by the Emperor Diocletian, both men were arrested and imprisoned.
According to legend, Marcellinus and Peter not only strengthened the faith of other Christians imprisoned with them; they also made new converts, including the jailer — a man named Arthemius — and his wife and daughter. Along with the other Christians, Marcellinus and Peter were condemned to death about the year 304; the two saints were taken to a wood outside Rome named Silva Nigra, where they were beheaded in secret (so that their place of burial wouldn’t be known to the Church, and in the hopes that their example of courage and faith would be forgotten).
Ironically, their names have been preserved and venerated over the centuries in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) used at Mass. Pope St. Damasus (d. 384) had, while a boy, talked to Arthemius about the two saints; as pope, he later wrote an epitaph for their tombs.
1. As Jesus said, “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be made known” (Mt 10:26). The Roman authorities attempted to execute Saints Marcellinus and Peter in secret so as to erase their memory — but through their courageous martyrdom, God has granted them eternal renown.
2. Difficulties and misfortunes can actually provide opportunities for spreading the gospel; Marcellinus and Peter used their imprisonment as a way of bringing still more people to know and follow Christ.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Erasmus (303), Bishop and Martyr, invoked against stomach ailments