July 10th, Seven Holy Brethren, Martyrs, and Saints Rufina and Secunda, Virgins and Martyrs
During the course of the second century, as we know, the seven young men whose feast is kept today, suffered martyrdom at Rome for Christ’s sake. According to the book of their Acts (which was probably put in its present form in the sixth century) these seven men were brethren, sons of the holy woman Felicity, whom the Prefect Publius first essayed to cajole by kindness, and then to shake by fear, that he might seduce them to deny Christ and worship the gods. But, by their own bravery and the exhortation of their mother, they remained firm in their confession, and were all put to death in divers ways. Januarius was lashed to death with whips loaded with lead ; Felix and Philip were beaten with cudgels ; Silvanus was thrown over a precipice ; Alexander, Vitalis and Martial were beheaded. Their mother, however, did not gain her palm of martyrdom until four months afterwards, to with, on November 23rh, on which day her feast is kept. But the seven Brethren gave up their sols to god on the tenth day of July. * Rufina and her sister Secunda were maidens of Rome, who in 257 died for Christ, and were buried on the Aurelian Way, at a place afterwards known as Santa Rufina. According to the Acts of these Saints, (which Acts are also a compilation of a date much later than their martyrdom,) they were betrothed to two Christian young men who, to escape persecution, forsook Christ. However, the two maidens would not follow the example of their lovers, nor would they marry them. Rather, to escape from the apostate young men, they endeavored to leave Rome secretly. Whereupon thy were overtaken not far from the City, and there first tortured, and then beheaded, and so went to Christ as to the true Bridegroom of their souls. * Concerning the aforesaid seven brethren, and Felicity who is reputed to be their mother, Saint Gregory preached a beautiful sermon, as is noted on her feast-day, November 23rd. And holy Augustine also celebrated their praises in the following words. Wonderful is the sight, my brethren, which is set before the eyes of our faith, a mother of more than human love, watching her sons leaving this life before her. All men would fain depart hence before their children, but she was ready to die last. Departing from her, they were not lost, but gone before. And she looked, not to the life they were ending, but to the life they were beginning. They laid aside a life which must needs end in death, and began that life wherein they are alive forever. The least of her work was that she was an on-looker ; more amazing is it, when we remember that she was their exhortress. Her courage was more fruitful than her womb, and when she saw them contending and conquering, he heart contended and conquered in each.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that, like as we have known thy glorious Martyrs to be constant in their confession of thy Faith, so we may feel the succour of their loving intercession, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.