At the beginning of the Moslem rule in Cordova, Spain, during the 8th century, Christians were allowed to practice their Faith; later, however, when the domination became complete, the Mohammedan leaders began a systematic persecution of the Christians. One of the most prominent martyrs of the day was the Archbishop of Toledo, St. Eulogius, who also wrote a Memorial of the martyrs who suffered before him, among whom were those we honor today.
Natalia was a converted Moslem and her husband Aurelius was the son of an Arab and a Spanish woman. They conformed to Moslem customs outwardly but practiced their Christian faith in secret. One day Aurelius happened to see a Christian patiently enduring the scorn of the populace and the fierce blows of the whip for having publicly confessed his faith. This worked a dramatic change in Aurelius: from that moment on, he and his wife began to live their Christian faith openly. After setting aside enough money to take care of their daughter’s future, they distributed the rest of their possessions to the poor, and gave themselves over to penance and devotion.
Their example proved to be an inspiration for a relative of Aurelius named Felix, who had apostatized from the Church, and his wife Liliosa who had been practicing her faith in secret. Now, Felix returned to the Church and both gave up all pretense of dissembling. All four began to visit and minister to the Christians who were in prison.
It did not take long before all four of these dedicated servants of God were arrested and themselves thrown into prison. Also arrested with them was a beggar named George, who belonged to the monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem and had toured Egypt and Europe in search of alms for his house. Since he could not be accused of the same crime as the others “apostasy from the Moslem faith.” George in order to obtain martyrdom insulted Mohammed to the Cadi’s face. Thus, when the first four were condemned to death by beheading, George was also included. On July 27, 852, these saintly followers of Christ achieved the martyrdom they so avidly sought.
1. The most important thing a husband or wife can do for their spouse is to help them achieve salvation. These two couples understood that Christ and His Church had to come first in their lives, even though they knew full well that open profession of their faith would ultimately cost them their earthly lives. The heavenly crown they won for themselves far surpasses any suffering they had to endure on earth. So too may we all remember the glory that awaits us when we find ourselves in the midst of trials and persecution.
2. The monk George openly sought martyrdom — not something that most people would do. Natalia, Aurelius, Felix, and Liliosa tried to live in a Moslem society while remaining undercover Christians, but they finally realized that they could hide their faith in Christ no longer. If we ever find ourselves in the position where it would be more expedient to hide our faith, may we pray for the courage to profess it openly and face the consequences with courage and conviction. Our Lord tells us, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32-33).
Other Saints We Remember Today
- St. Pantaleon (305), Martyr; invoked against lung disease, for doctors and the medical profession
- St. Celestine I (432), Pope
photo via Wikimedia Commons