The Roman catacombs are the Christians' creation. The men designed the passages and galleries for Christian escape. I entered the catacombs in such a way I can not be detected. I lost track of the stairways and passages. With a grief-stricken pause, I reflected on the praises and losses.
My sweet Emerentiana, the mere thought of a pebble touching her ruddy cheeks much less a martyr's stoning sent me to heaves I was forced to keep silent. Silence kept me alive, my body anyway. My soul died twice with the murder of my girls. Emerentiana refused silence. She would not let what happened to her dear friend Agnes go without protest. I escaped to the city of the dead to bid goodbye to two girls not even fourteen. My sob echoed throughout the catacombs.
Agnes was as her name suggests: pure and lamb. The love for her Lord was so strong I shuddered when I heard Agnes reject her suitor. I was preparing her clothing for evening when I heard her steady voice proclaim,
"I am already the spouse of a Lover much more noble and powerful than you."
It was her death knell. Her suitor's heart truly beat for the emperor and his edict. The government's results always sadistic. Pure Agnes was first thrown into a brothel. The Romans knew they could not execute a virgin. They were sure her own virginal sacrifice would kill her. Her reply?
"Do you believe that now I could bow my head before simple rocks, mute and lifeless?"
Her tormentors, high on evil intent, became blind. She was bold enough to pray for their restored sight. Not only was her prayer granted, she remained a virgin. Our Lord is so good.
The Romans would not stop there. Her family wealth meant nothing. The whole city saw the next spectacle. The government ordered Agnes to be burned at the stake naked in the middle of the city. Emerentiana and I clung hard to each other, unable to watch from afar. All that burned was the pride of Rome. Agnes remained as alive as her faith.
The sword finally ushered her to the Suitor she desired all along. The streets filled with people up in arms. Killing an adult for denying idols, so many let that atrocity pass. But a child? Kill a child for proclaiming Christ? I comforted my own Emerentiana with this encouragement. I couldn't fathom how much her death would stir a frenzy to insist on change. My regret is the change did not come in time to save my on flesh and blood.
A child as well, Emerentiana went to the tomb to grieve a couple days after Agnes was killed. Perhaps it was Agnes' rejected suitor who lurked in the shadows to report his findings. Before long a crowd was before my baby. For the Glory of Christ, Emerentiana stood to boldly share the Gospel and admonish the soldiers. Like Stephen, rocks were the dispenser of hate. Except for my sweet Jesus, I was left alone.
I relied on the anger of the citizens to make change in this place. Passion will help me continue to make a difference in the Kingdom. My job was to teach Agnes the way of the Lord. I never thought she'd be tested so soon. I didn't believe friendship that strong would bind Emerentiana to the same fate. Alone, my job clear, I'm a nanny. I won't stop sharing the Gospel with the children. I believe in turn they will stand strong and become history for the sake of Christ. You won't find my name in the history books; and I don't care.
Idea and quotes from Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, May 2007
Additional information found online at www.newadvent.org/cathen/01214a.htm
Julie Arduini, http://thesurrenderedscribe.blogspot.com/, is devoted to writing for Christ in ways that encourage and inspire. A graduate of the Christian Writer's Guild, her writing resume is on her blog's sidebar. Happily married to Tom, they have two children.
@2009 by Julie Arduini
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