St. Genesius, the Actor

Friends in Christ, today on the Liturgical Calendar, there is no Obligatory feast to celebrate; but if you open up the Roman Martyrology for August 25th, you will find that there is an interesting saint listed for today: St. Genesius of Rome. So I thought it would be good for us to honor this saint today.
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Back[i] in the 3rd century, the cruel emperor Diocletian ruled the Roman Empire, a mortal enemy of Christians. One day, as the emperor was coming into Rome, the leaders prepared many entertainments for him, including a comedy, acted out on stage.
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Now in this performance, one of the actors had the idea to mock the Christian Sacrament of baptism, which would surely amuse the people who had nothing but contempt for the Catholic Faith. This actor, named Genesius, had learned something of the Catholic religion from his friends. So he laid himself down on the stage, pretending to be sick, and said, ‘Ah, my friends, there is a great weight upon me, and I would like it to be lifted.’
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The others answered, ‘What shall we do to help you? Would you like us to plane you, to take some of the weight off of you?’ ‘You idiots!’ he exclaimed, ‘I wish to die a Christian, that God may receive me on the day of my death. I must turn from idolatry and superstition.’
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Then a priest and exorcist were called, that is to say, two actors who played these roles. Sitting down at his bedside they asked: ‘Well, my child, why did you send for us.?’
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But it was at this moment, that he was touched by God; Genesius was suddenly converted. No longer joking, he answered the priest: ‘I wish to receive the grace of Jesus Christ, and to be born new, so that I may be delivered from my sins.’ The other actors then went through the ceremony of baptism, and he answered each of the questions with seriousness. After this, other actors who came as soldiers, brought him and presented him to the Emperor, to be examined, as was done with the martyrs.
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Genesius then declared himself openly and seriously, standing upon the stage, ‘Hear O emperor, and all you that are present: officers, senators, and people; hear what I am going to say. I had always detested even the word ‘Christian;’ I learned it’s rites and mysteries only to ridicule them; but when I was on stage, about to be baptized, I saw a company of angels over my head, who recited out of a book all the sins I had committed from my childhood; they took that book and plunged it into the water, and the book came out whiter than snow.
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I therefore advise you, O great emperor and all here present who have mocked these mysteries, to believe with me that Jesus Christ is the true Lord; and that it is through him that you may obtain the forgiveness of yours sins.
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Diocletian, enraged at these words, ordered him to be beaten, and to sacrifice to the gods. He was put on the rack, where he was torn with iron hooks and burnt with torches. But he persisted in crying out, ‘There is no other Lord beside him whom I have seen. No torments will remove Jesus Christ from my heart and my mouth. In the end, he became a martyr by decapitation.
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God’s mercy can surprise anyone. As his grace was suddenly offered to Genesius, he offers special grace to us very often, including opportunities to stand fast in the faith when challenged. Let us never say ‘no’ to the beautiful grace he offers us. 

 

[i] This account comes from the new, Butler’s Lives of the saints.

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