Tuesday, May 12, 1998
Tuesday, May 12:
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter and
Feast of Saints Nereus, Achilleus and Pancras, Martyrs
White and Red vestments
First Reading: Acts 14: 5-18
Psalms: Psalm 115: 1-4, 15-16
Gospel Reading: John 14: 21-26
Saint Nereus, Achilleus and Pancras, Martyrs
All three martyrs lived in the late 3rd Century and were persecuted under the reigns of the Roman Emperor Trajan. Saint Nereus and Saint Achilleus were Praetorian Roman soldiers who had persecuted Christians by orders from above until they saw and felt the tremendous faith of these people they were putting to death. The two centurions were amazed at how steadfast and happy the Christians were and how they would willingly die for this Jesus Christ they all professed. Eventually their blood was enough for both soldiers to convert, cast away their blood-stained swords and shields and go awol from the Roman legions. They eagerly embraced the new faith and were hunted down and
exiled to the island of Terracina where they endeavored to convert others before being beheaded around 304 A.D. A cult grew out of the veneration for the martyrs Nereus and Achilleus in the 4th Century and
Pope Siricius built a church in their honor in 398 within the boundaries of the cemetary of Saint Domitilla. Two centuries later another church was built in Rome in the proximity of the Baths of Caracalla. In the 16th century the relics of Nereus and Achilleus were transfered from that church and placed with the relics of St. Domitilla.
Saint Pancras was born in either Syria or Phrygia as historians have assumed and was brought to Rome by his uncle who converted to Christianity and subsequently converted the young Pancratius to the faith when he was 12 years old. Both he and his uncle were discovered and beheaded in 304, many believe on the same day as Sts. Nereus and Achilleus were murdered in Terracina. For that reason they are all celebrated on May 12th every year. Pope Symmacus built a basilica in Pancras' honor in 514 and it was St. Augustine of Canterbury who dedicated the first church he built in England to St. Pancras. From there Pancras' legend grew and in 672 Pope Saint Vitalian sent the saint's relics to one of the kings in Britain where Pancras became firmly entrenched as a saint with great intercessory favors.