Let us affectionately welcome the brave triumvirate of martyrs, presented today to our Risen Jesus by the Roman Church of the second century. The first is Valerian, the chaste and noble spouse of Cecily; he wears on his brow a wreath of roses and lilies. The second is Tiburtius, Valerian’s brother, and like him, a convert of Cecily; he shows us the triumphant palm he won so speedily. Maximus is the third; he witnessed the combat and the victory of the two brothers, imitated their example, and followed them to heaven. The immortal Cecily is the queen of this holy group; she taught them to be martyrs; she has a right to our remembrance on this day of their feast. She herself shared in their glorious privilege of suffering and dying for the name of Christ. She won the crown five months later, on September 16, according to the most ancient calendars; her feast, however, is no longer kept on that day. The solemnity of November 22, formerly preceded by a vigil, is marked in the Roman breviary as the day of her martyrdom; it is, in reality, the anniversary of the dedication of her magnificent basilica in Rome.
The Church makes a commemoration of our three great martyrs today.
The following lesson is extremely short. The reason is that this feast is very ancient; and in the early ages of the Church, simple offices, as they are called, were extremely frequent; and it was only for great feasts that three nocturns were said, each with three lessons.
Valerianus Romanus, nobili genere ortus, Alexandro Severo Imperatore, hortatu beatæ Cæciliæ virginis, quam sibi pari nobilitate uxorem desponderat, una cum Tiburtio fratre a sancto Urbano papa baptizatur. Quos ubi præfectus Urbis Almachius christianos esse cognovit, et patrimonio pauperibus distributo. Christianorum corpora sepelire, accersitos graviter reprehendit: atque ubi Christum Deum constanter confidentes, deos autem dæmoniorum inania simulacra prædicantes videt, virgis cædi jubet. Sed cum verberibus cogi non possent, ut Jovis simulacrum venerarentur, imo fortes in fideo veritate permanerent, ad quartum ab Urbe lapidem securi feriuntur. Quorum virtutem admiratus Maximus præfecti cubicularius, qui eos ad supplicium perduxerat, Christianum se esse professus est, cum multis præfecti ministris: qui paulo post plumbatis contusi, omnes ex diaboli ministris Christi Domini martyres evaserunt.
Valerian, a Roman by birth, and of a noble family, was married to the blessed Cecily, who was of equal nobility. By the advice of this virgin, he and his brother Tiburtius were baptized by the holy Pope Urban, in the reign of the Emperor Alexander Severus. Almachius, the City Prefect, having been informed that they had become Christians, had distributed their patrimony among the poor, and were burying the bodies of the Christians, summoned them before him, and severely rebuked them. Finding, however, that they persevered in confessing Christ to be God, and in proclaiming the gods to be but vain images of devils, he ordered them to be scourged. But they were not to be induced, by this scourging, to adore the idols of Jupiter; they continued firm in the profession of the true faith: they were therefore beheaded four miles out of Rome. One of the Prefect’s officials, by name Maximus, who had been appointed to lead them to execution, was filled with admiration at seeing the courage wherewith they suffered, and professed himself to be a Christian, as did likewise several other servants of the Prefect. Not long after, they were all beaten to death with whips loaded with plummets of lead; and thus, from being slaves of the devil, they became martyrs of Christ our Lord.
Holy and precious fruits of the great Cecily’s apostolate! we this day unite with the blessed Spirits in celebrating your entrance into the court of heaven. Thou, O Valerian, wast led to faith, and to the sublimest of all virtues, by thy noble spouse; thou wast the first to enter into the joy of the Lord; but in a few days thy Cecily followed thee, and the love begun on earth was made eternal in heaven. Speaking of thee and her, an angel said that your roses and lilies should never fade; their fragrance of love and purity is sweeter by far now than when they bloomed here below. Thou, O Tiburtius! brother of these two angels of earth! thou owest to them thy beautiful palm; thou art a sharer in their eternal happiness, and the three names, Cecily, Valerian, and Tiburtius, are to be forever united in the admiration of angels and men. The sight of the two brothers suffering so bravely for Christ inflamed thy ambition, O Maximus, to imitate them; the God of Cecily became thine; thou didst shed thy blood for him; and he, in return, has placed thee in heaven near Cecily, Valerian and Tiburtius, to whom, while on earth, thou wast so inferior by birth and position.
Now, therefore, O holy martyrs, be our protectors, and hear the prayers we address unto you. Speak in our favor to the immortal King, for whom you so bravely fought and died; ask him to fill our hearts with his love, and make us generous like you. You despised this fleeing life; we too must despise it, if we would share in the happiness you now enjoy, the sight of our Risen Lord. The battle we have to fight may, perhaps, be different from yours; but the reward that awaits us is, like your own, everlasting. Rather than betray Christ, you laid down your lives; our duty is the same—we must die rather than sin. Pray for us, O holy martyrs, that our lives may henceforward be such as will honor this year’s Pasch. Pray also for the Church of Rome, your Mother; her days of trial have returned; she has a right to count upon your intercession for the help she needs.