More Translations for July 27, Ss. Aurelius, Sabigotho, Felix, Liliosa, and George

More stuff from the horse’s mouth — okay, St. Eulogius of Cordoba’s mouth. What turned a happy bunch of people living in “security through obscurity” into notorious public Christians?


5. Therefore, not many years ended before it happened that venerable Aurelius went to the forum, on the day when that John, whom we noted earlier in the book, bleeding to the point of murder from a flogging given him out of hatred for Christ’s name, was conveyed out backwards on a donkey colt and bound with chains of immense weight, so that he was bent back over the beast of burden into the trash on the street, hanging there by his legs. Mocking heralds went before him, while helpful accomplices led him around the whole city as a show for the crowd. And when reproachful voices rang out because of this, saying that he had paid a totally unworthy penalty for the crime, of course they did not respect such reverence, attacking it with violent mocking pantomime. Rather, they agreed to beat him to death most disgustingly.

Immediately he was goaded with warlike love of martyrdom, in such a way that a heavenly wind breathed upon him, so that he might believe the spectacle had been done for him, and as an admonition and revelation for his sake. Of course one should not dread those who butcher the body, with no worry of soul for those who can carry it off; but one should be terrified of those who can destroy body and soul, and send them to Gehenna. [See Luke 12:4.]

6. He wondered at John’s steadiness of faith. “Truly it is said, this man’s tent of angelic trust is founded on the rock — that such force of torments did not push him over, nor by disastrous punishments that shook the air. Because if he who carries Christ’s banner reveals Him to their sight, such a great many serious torments he was able to bear by zeal for the Redeemer, when he certainly could have evaded this devastation of suffering by lying. And judging it better to throw away his flesh than ruin his soul, he did not allow them to drag him away from any article of Christ’s religion in an undertone. In what will I believe? Did my education make me worthy to be mocked? Or ought I hand over myself, proving myself through suffering, so that I would gain strength that these reprobates whom I have stared at today would seize me, and I would delight in constancy?”

7. Rumination seized his soul, while already the deep breaths of his calling were spreading through him. He returned home, brought back news to his pious mate about what he had seen, and he adds in a cheerful spirit, “Sweetest spouse, I would live with you forever. And I would be dead to God if you had not sedulously encouraged me. You dragged me to Confession; you came to me daily to wrench me away from the shining pleasures of the present. You preferred the happiness of the eternal kingdom to the gloomy passions of the world. You urged me to leave behind all slipups and all that blocked me from my goal. You preached about monks and praised those who renounced the world, and delighting in religious conversation, you often sighed for the life of the saints.

“But I am not yet cleansed by the sting of supernal grace. I cannot totally acquiesce to saving exhortations. Or rather, perhaps my amendment by God the Father is not yet standing upon a pre-determined warning. Now I will carry out what I have put off — what I had planned in my soul, though feebly. Behold, dearest; already now ‘the acceptable time’ comes, the ‘day of salvation’ is here — on which, recoiling from the exterior and driven back, we should reach out to what before us.

“And first of all, striving for more perfect purity and continence — we should be ‘free for prayer’, so that it will be easier; let us hurry to the rest of holiness. May she be a sister now, who came to me a spouse. May the bed of our coming together in family affection pass away. Our offsprings’ souls should be grown up. Let us raise a spiritual generation, and spurn the soppy joining of body parts. Let us get to know the more excellent mind (withdrawn from the delight of the flesh) that sprouts forth in perpetual safety. For, either way, we may have such labor in meditation as is worthy of the prize of martyrdom.”

The venerable woman supported her husband’s pious plan with a gladdened soul, and rejoicing in multiple ways in the suddenness of unforeseen salvation, she said, “This change is done by the right hand of the Most High. Already this calling of ours is a good omen. This is what I have always wished for, a route together to the heavenly kingdom, so that when our flesh dies, we will live in spirit — which is easier done together, as it is written: ‘God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth.’ [John 4:24] Therefore, my lord, since this was not revealed to you in a human way, but the Heavenly Father has directed you to his eternal army already, He wills that you rouse yourself even now to hurry your steps. We should be released from all our chains; we should shake the dust off our feet. We should grow in the desire of everlasting life.”

9. And it happened that the others also agreed to serve God in common. They were in separate beds, but united in vows. Their bedposts outshone clothing in colors of variety, as their conversation was renowned among the common people. But in the inner corners of their tabernacle, they built upon [their bodies] a bloody swelling; they equipped themselves somehow with goatshair blankets, which they separately lay upon. They fasted often; they prayed without ceasing; and as they all had learned from the psalms, they meditated in the night. They conquered the chaos introduced to work by wakeful vigils, and they overcame all such frauds of the demons with eager studies. They served those in want; they managed all the care of the poor.

And because John was still being held in prison at that point, we kept ourselves going to the cavern where he was held to hold up his chains. Also, there were two virgins, Maria and Flora, of course, who then dwelled in a hiding place of women for the sake of the faith. Friendly discourse came frequently among those in fetters; of course, at times the blessed monk Isaac was among them, or other saints who were gifted with tongues that proclaimed the truth. They would confess before princes and judges what they truly were; they had stood up and they had rested on the truth, before them. From that enduring constancy, their strength was augmented to firmness by many virtues. On the other hand, scrutinizing these men, one missed the women held back behind bars.

10. I met them there. I won their friendship there….


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9 responses to “More Translations for July 27, Ss. Aurelius, Sabigotho, Felix, Liliosa, and George

  1. Chase

    See, I don’t get this kind of stuff. I read it, but all it left me with is this idea we see often among the saints of the early church, that to be a holy married person is to be continent. This complete renouncing of the flesh to th epoint of renouncing ALL marital relations makes me leery. Is that what God really expects? Is that what holiness is?

    It just upsets me to read things like this, cause it scares me. I mean, these people were MUCH holier than I am. Doesn’t this just fodder to the ultrissima-trads who say that all sex not specifically intended to procreate a child is evil?

    But time and time again we see saints who ‘got over’ their sexual love for their spouses, as if this was something holing them back from salvation. I know this is part fo the tradition of the church, and that’s why it scares me so much — I want to believe in the beauty of marital relations and human sexuality that the Magisterium of the church professes. But it seems that the saints almost unanimously disapprove of marital love.

  2. Chase

    Sorry, my reaction was swift. It just hit a nerve with something I struggle with — namely, being at peace with the Christian ideal of sex (I love the current teaching, but not the past attitudes). All of this ‘brother and sister’ stuff scares me, like I said, cause it strikes me as a full-on condemnation of marital sex. I know we should repspect how some people are called to such asceticism, but I have a feeling the saints you’re quoting wouldn’t have thought highly at all of most faithful Catholics’ healthy and loving sex lives today.

  3. Maureen

    It’s okay. There are all kinds of ways that people can be devout followers of Jesus Christ. This story is actually a pretty useful lens on what these folks were thinking.

    The first thing you have to remember is that, in ancient Greece and Rome, hyperbole was everybody’s favorite persuasive technique. If they were trying to persuade you to take a morning walk, they’d tell you that you would die within a year if you didn’t. Thus a lot of comments and adjectives about sex in Christian religious literature (which was a lot gentler and nicer than pagan philosophical literature about sex, I guarantee you) and the amazing array of insults in anything from the ancient world. This is still pretty early medieval, and Eulogius is trying hard to sound classical and patristic.

    Second, the early Church was still unpacking the stuff Jesus revealed to them (as indeed we still are). You can’t expect everyone to get everything right. We have monastic systems now to prevent people Doing Stupid Things; though by the same token, we lose some creativity and boldness that way.

    Anyway, this couple didn’t stop loving each other. (Sheesh, not with all that “dearest” talk going back and forth!) They were going into “athletic training”, so that they’d be more ready to die a martyr’s death. The idea was brutally practical. If you’re going to face hunger, thirst, bodily pain, and being shut away from your loved ones, you might as well start practicing. If it’s going to happen soon, you have to throw that training into high gear. When the imminent threat of martyrdom went away, the idea that some people were called to go into training as soul athletes or “white martyrs” remained, and became the world of hermits and monasticism.

    Some people are spiritually ambitious and competitive, just like some athletes want more than having fun with their friends. And just as some married couples give up almost all semblance of a normal life in order to train for the Olympics or professional sports, every era has a few married couples who also want to go off and train. I wouldn’t do it; but I can see where there’d always be some people who would want to. You see the same thing in every other walk of life that requires boldness. Think of the people who start a store and spend every waking hour on the business.

    I’m not sure if my translation made it sufficiently clear, but Aurelius and Sabigotho were middle-aged people whose children had just reached adulthood. (There’s stuff later on about all the prudent things they did to make sure everything was in order.) They weren’t likely to have more kids, and they were entering yet another time of life when early medieval people were highly prone to dying. If they wanted to cast everything else aside in order to pursue heroic service to the Church and the poor, and to prepare for possible martyrdom, that was their considered decision to make.

    As for leaving off sex in order to have more time to pray — it’s not just something Paul came up with; it’s in Jewish tradition fairly far back, and in many other religious traditions throughout the world. (Actually, there’s another amusing parallel. Most athletic traditions have demanded that the athlete leave off late nights, alcohol, rich food, and sex while in training. There were a lot of coaches during the Olympics who wanted that to come back, because some of the athletes were spending way too much time on extracurricular activities….)

    Most of the misunderstandings about ways to achieve holiness come from people thinking that one spirituality fits all — and that unmarried celibate males were writing a lot of the books on how to achieve holiness! But there were always plenty of correctives written on these points, and of course there may have been much more that didn’t survive. (Seeing as how most books were copied by unmarried celibate men and women for the use of unmarried celibate men and women.) For most people, the holiness of marriage and children went without much saying; you had the whole Old Testament telling you that, not to mention every sermon on the Bridegroom and the Bride. Normal holiness was normal. It would be like advertising how great it is to eat and breathe and go to the bathroom.

    Nowadays, of course, we do have to advertise normal things, but only because we’ve forgotten what normal is.

    Some people learn detachment by loving their kids and therefore telling them no. Some people go the opposite way, and love so much that detachment just happens. Some people have to go out into the middle of some howling wilderness to find a sane balance in life. Nobody is exactly the same; and most paths to get closer to God and become more like Him are not going to appeal to anybody but the ones who can get some use out of it.

    Oh, and one other thing. In many times and places, you have to remember that not all parents actually are allowed to care for their children. St. Melania left her children back in Rome to live as a hermit — but her children were under the total legal and day to day control of her husband’s relatives, while she got by on sufferance and no money, and her children spent a lot of time seething at her treatment and growing more bitter. That was the kind of thing that drove a lot of married women to seek peace in the religious life. (Well, that and the ever-popular abusive spouse who’s trying to kill you.)

    It’s a very complicated and interesting set of issues.

  4. Maureen

    Anyway… that’s what all the stuff about shiny bedposts was about. The couples had apparently been having plenty of perfectly wholesome marital sex. (Thus the stuff about Sabigotho being consecrated by Jesus when she got married. Early Spain wedding festivities were very big on this!) They gave it up for better athletic training, and it was a big sacrifice; so God rewarded them for it.

    (And if they hadn’t been visited by a sudden conviction that they were called to do otherwise and fast, they probably would have tottered to their graves still living a normal Christian married life, and God would have rewarded them for that.)

    Sacrifices are only fitting offerings to God if the thing you sacrifice is good and beautiful and flawless. God created sex; they used His gift well, and then they offered it back to him well. They got the best of both worlds.

    Not everybody has to do the same thing, though. There’s nothing bad about being somebody runs every day; and running doesn’t demand that you get into Iron Man triathlons for it to make you a little faster and healthier. Every Christian is a spiritual athlete; most of us aren’t called to go pro, and that’s not a bad thing. If some people are called to that tier, that’s good for them; and if I do only what God has called me to do, that’s good for me.

    Oh, and the other part of this story is that (as was often said by patristic authors about Jesus, though mostly in a mystical way), they got to experience all the different good ways of life and most of the seasons of a human life. They lived good single lives, good married lives, were good parents, and then crammed in a short spell of good celibate lives.

  5. Chase

    Sorry it took so long to get back to the comments, but I wanted to thank you for your answer. I think it’s one of the best explanations for this kind of this that I have seen so far. So I’m going to ask you where you pulled it from, haha. I mean, do you know of any books in particular about how we should interpret this kind of stuff being in a different culture and all. I trust that whatever sources you’d give me are orthodox (none of this ‘ah well, Leviticus didn’t *really* condemn sodomy, etc.’ tripe).

    I struggle to reconcile sometimes the beautiful teachings of the Church that started to develop in the late 19th century, through Pius XII and culminating in John Paul II and Dietrich von Hildebrand (I think it really started with Liguori and Sanchez), with the earlier, scarier views of Saints like Jerome and Gregory the Great and Bridget of Sweden (a certain sect of rad trads take her ‘revelations’ as Gospel truth, especially how she talk about people going to hell for having sex during pregnancy – to me, much of it sound like the ravings of a lunatic, and it scares me half to death, though I understand she was a wonderfully charitable saint).

    I get caught up knowing that these people were incredible saints, and several of them have had a major major influence on how the Catholic Faith has developed. I reject the bogeyman Augustine theory, ’cause I’ve read enough of his stuff to know his views were much more nuanced than people think, and that he was often deeply pastoral and understanding in these matters if one looks away from his speculative theology.

    I just get upset that so many in the trad camp seem to equate NFP for example with artificial contraception, which they equate with murder and a deliberate shunning of God. This is hard for me to take, because it took me a long time to come around to accepting the Church’s position, and I am still trying to get it across to my own wife (please pray for us if you can).

    The magisterium was able to convince me because that vision is so much MORE beautiful, so much sexier, really (though the Christopher West TOB train rubs me the wrong way cause it’s so sensational and seems to support that the teachings are new, which gives ammo to the radicals). But those of the Remnant crowd disgust and horrify me with their hatred of JPII and his TOB in particular. They hate Lumen Gentium and its view of marriage. But they do ask the question: what would Pius X have thought of these things? And Augustine, what would he have though of NFP (though for some weird reason I could see Aquinas accepting it)? I guess the better question is: does it matter? (I don’t think it does in the least, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying).

    I think this is the same ‘ban the pants’ crowd, so maybe that should say something about their credibility (I read one ranting one time about how JPII encouraging sports for girls was sinning against modesty and leading people to perdition). Which, by the way, I’d love to see your opinion of the ‘Modesty Handbook’ at ‘Goretti Publications’ online. This guy actually says ‘we COULD get an imprimatur if we wanted to, but we choose not to out of protest against the modern Church.’ I’m sure you could rip it apart.

    • I’m not really a good person to ask about my sources for really general statements. I’m one of those people who reads a lot, learns a lot by osmosis and context, and then synthesizes. So if you ask me about a specific thought, I may be able to tell you where I read it; but if I came to that opinion by synthesis, I’ve probably got no idea. I’ve been reading a lot of patristics and a lot of other theology-ish and history stuff over the last ten years.

      But there’s a lot of Christian defenses of marriage in the early church. Any time somebody went really crazy with the asceticism and the Gnosticism, some bishop smacked ’em a good one. Grumpy old Asterius of Amasea actually waxed pretty indignant about men badmouthing their wives or abandoning them, and that was just in the course of normal sermons. Augustine wrote a defense of marriage (though he paired it with one on why it was even greater to be celibate) which I haven’t read. Tertullian was a jerk with issues, but he loved his wife (he was a lay lawyer) and wrote some nice stuff about the beauty of marriage and of singing psalms back and forth with her. There’s a lot of stuff like that if you poke around.

      If you’re interested in classical rhetoric, there’s plenty of stuff out there. I’m not super knowledgeable about it, but the more you read and the more you read comments by knowledgeable scholars, you’ll start to suss out what people mean and why they say things the way they do. Reading poetry helps.

      Similarly, there are tons of books about Roman and Byzantine culture and everyday life. There’s a lot of stuff about women’s lives, particularly. Women’s studies is full of idiocy, but it did manage to get a lot of people writing papers and digging up sources. 🙂

      Re: the ranting type people — Well, a lot of people are very bitter about bad stuff that’s happened, so they throw themselves the other way. It’s pretty easy to fall to “scruples” (the obsessive compulsive spiritual/mental disease kind) in that sort of situation. There’s also a strong impulse in folks to live a more devout life through asceticism, which isn’t wrong; but very few people are able to get good spiritual direction, so things get messed up pretty easily. And of course, a lot of times rigidity and zealotry comes from trying to bluff your way through attacks of uncertainty and fear. (I’ve been there and done that, in my time.) Most of the time, people grow out of it.

  6. Chase

    Anyway, I’ve discovered several wonderful traditonal, non-even-close-to-being-schismatic Catholics online (you, Fr. Z, Fr. Ray Blake, much of the staff at Inside Catholic … and for some reason it almost seems like English traditionalists are nowhere near as venomous as Americans at times, go figure), and I am happy to see that many are in the ‘imitatio Christi’ camp and not the ‘imitatio Tertulliani’ camp. I’d love to see this movement grow. I guess the reason I’d like to see it is because I want to know and to be able to believe that the Church eternal is the Church eternal, that what I love about Her and Her teachings now is not some ‘novelty.’ When one reads ‘that kind of trad’, you sort of get the impression of ‘wow, if it really was that way, thank God it changed’ (These are the people who say EWTN is a hotbed of modernism and compromise. EWTN!). But I don’t want to believe it changed. Grew, matured, developed, yes. And I think the worst of the actual Modernist abuses are on the way out, simply because I think the Faith will only grow among those who have the Faith. And I also truly believe that JPII was essential in keeping the whole thing from falling apart, and did his part to plant the seeds to the Catholic faith among the next generation, the ones who weren’t alive in the 60s.

    And sorry if this is a bit long, but one more question: Were these martyrs in the post martyred by the Muslims in Spain? Wasn’t Visigothic Spain a sort of Arian haven? Just wondering, and once again, thanks for your answers and God bless. And thanks even more if you can recommend any literature.

    • Yup, these guys were martyred by the Muslims.

      Re: Visigothic Spain, the Visigoths were originally Arians, but they got over it. Reccared I and his guys did an en masse conversion to Orthodoxy in 589 AD, but the Visigoths had been tending that way for quite a while. (Hispania was one of the older Catholic areas in the Empire, and the original inhabitants weren’t all slaughtered when the Visigoths arrived and were full of persuasive bishops.) So all was joy and happiness from 589 until 711, when the Arabs and Berbers showed up and slaughtered the king and most of his lords and soldiers at the Battle of Guadalete. The kingdom collapsed, except for the folks who fled up north to the mountains and founded Asturias (and other outlying kingdoms). The Muslims took over.

  7. Chase

    By the way, as far as the names go … Germanic peoples had this awesoem habit of naming all the kids with the fist element of the father’s name: Aethelraed would name his children Aethelwulf, Aethelstan, Aethelfriedh, etc. Or Edward – Edmund, Edgar, Edwulf, etc. I’d love to see this tradition come back (lot cooler than the Romans with Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus .. you had to have seven kids before getting to the coolest-sounding one!). I love how people in those days named their children with real elements so that the names meant something. Sad to see so many little Denzels and Britneys running around these days, and I don’t even wanna know the number of Baracks that will be flooding kndergartens in about 3 or 4 years.

    One thing you mentioned in one of your reposnses was scupulosity, btw. I have suffered from OCD since I was a teenager, and as a Catholic trying to grow in faith and probe more deeply into a rich tradition, scruples and anxiety become inevitably a problem. I have found a decent spiritual guide for a short time, an old Redemptorist priest who was under Archbishop Ratzinger back when he was younger. The man is 100% orthodox with a heart of 100% gold. Unfortunately, he’s being transferred to the other side of Germany soon (I love in SW Germany). Spiritual help is certainly hard to come by — half the priests you find don’t even believe in sin.

    Delving into tradition alone can be dangerous, and a good guide is necessary, especially for someone like me. After all, unfortunately people like his Illicitness Biship Williamson don’t get their ideas in a vacuum, and that kind of thinking can arise from a selective understanding of Catholic tradition. I once read someone on Cath. Answers saying that fathers shouldn’t change their daughters’ diapers becuase impure thoughts could arise, and that elderly couples should nto assist each other bathing if they cannot carry out any ‘impure’ thoughts that may arise. Unfortunately, there’s always people of this mindset, and even more unfortunately, they can often find some saint’s words to back them up. I just run into the dilemma that this is obviously crazy, but then again, if it comes from a saint, who am I to judge?

    I believe that St. John of the Cross said that we shouldn’t model our spiritual lives after anyone save Christ Himself. And I guess we can add that the teachings of the Gospels and the Church are all we really need to make it to Heaven (actually, all we need is to truly trust in His Mercy) … so if somethng a saint says sounds off or odd, we can ignore it, even though it may be enlightening to someone else.

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