Mike Aquilina

‘Take My Life. Please.’

Friday August 25th 2006, 3:00 am

Today’s the feast of two martyrs named Genesius.

Our warm-up act is Genesius the Comedian (d. 286 or 303). With a name like that, who can resist? Genesius was the leader of a theatrical troupe in Rome, performing one day before the Emperor Diocletian The script called for these wise guys to make fun of the Christian rites, and Genesius was supposed to pretend to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. But a funny thing happened on the way to the punch line: When the water had been poured out on him, he proclaimed himself a Christian. Diocletian at first thought it was all part of the joke. But gradually it became clear that Genesius meant it. Suddenly, the emperor was not amused. For spoiling the party, Diocletian ordered the comedian to be tortured and then beheaded. Genesius must have had quite a following, though. We know that he was venerated at Rome as early as the fourth century: a church was built in his honor very early, and was repaired and beautified by Gregory III in 741.

And now for something completely different: Genesius of Arles was a notary martyred under Maximianus in 303 or 308. At first a soldier, this Genesius became known for his proficiency in writing, and was made secretary to the magistrate of Arles. While performing the duties of his office the decree of persecution against the Christians was read in his presence. As he himself was a catechumen, he was outraged at the injustice. He threw down his tablets at the feet of the magistrate and fled. He was captured and executed, and so received baptism in his own blood. His veneration must be very old, as his name is found in the ancient martyrology ascribed to St. Jerome. A church and altar dedicated to him at Arles were known in the fourth century.