‘Take My Life. Please.’
Friday August 25th 2006, 3:00 am
Filed under: Patristics

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.


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We’ve some of his (first one) relics in our church in Drogheda (Ireland) and have been celebrating a novena for last nine days, praying for actors and epileptics.

I’ve been praying for Katie Holmes!

Comment by Christopher Mc Camley 08.25.06 @ 10:34 am

I love it. I note that the story of Genesius has, down through history, been the subject of plays and sketches. From Google I see that it’s still being performed here and there.

Comment by Mike Aquilina 08.25.06 @ 10:39 am

I told the story of St. Genesius to my friend, Rob Corzine, who pointed out that Genesius had made the big time: “He was playing Caesar’s Palace. The Big Room.”

Comment by Mike Aquilina 08.25.06 @ 2:19 pm

According to Butler’s Lives, Saint Genesius the Comedian is an entirely apocryphal character. There’s no truth to his story or his existence, except that he is actually the same person as Saint Genesius of Arles, arond whom the new apocrypha developed when some of his relics were transferred from France to Rome.

Comment by Eric G. 08.25.06 @ 6:33 pm

It’s entirely possible that the story is a fiction that managed to lodge itself in histories. The Catholic Encyclopedia (which is usually judiciously critical in its scholarship) acknowledges the possibility, but doesn’t state it quite so dogmatically as you say Butler does. I’m reluctant to dismiss out of hand a cult begun in the fourth century for a man who died in the fourth century, even if we can’t confirm the details of his admittedly outlandish story.

It’s great fun to imagine the scene — especially the gradual realization that the jokester wasn’t joking. It reminded me of Andy Kaufman’s on-stage conversion act some years ago (only that one turned out to be a hoax). It also brought to mind Dick Shawn’s on-stage death, which had the audience laughing uproariously (but which, unfortunately, was not a hoax).

Muriel Spark claimed that belief in God is what made her black comedy possible. We can only laugh at death if we look back at it, as if from eternity.

If St. Genesius the Comedian isn’t a fiction, I’m sure he’ll forgive us for questioning his existence. He might even find it funny.

Comment by Mike Aquilina 08.25.06 @ 6:50 pm

“If St. Genesius the Comedian isn’t a fiction, I’m sure he’ll forgive us for questioning his existence. He might even find it funny. ”

Real or not, it’s way appropriate — as an actor, I am thrilled to have a patron who either 1) has a completely fudged resume, or 2)is the real deal, yet doubted and ignored by TPTB and acclaimed by the masses.
Most of the members of AEA can relate a bit to both possible personas.

Comment by Geri 08.26.06 @ 8:52 am

Ha! I like that.

Comment by Mike Aquilina 08.26.06 @ 9:29 am

“Suddenly, the emperor was not amused. For spoiling the party, Diocletian ordered the comedian to be tortured and then beheaded.”

Tough crowd!

Comment by Terrence Berres 08.26.06 @ 10:30 am



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