Mike Aquilina

Take My Life. Please.

Saturday November 08th 2008, 3:08 am

In today’s mail came a press release from the Fraternity of St Genesius, which unites “members of the faithful in prayer and support for those involved in the theatrical and cinematic arts.” The organization was founded in Ireland in 2007 and now has hundreds of members. Late last month, its founder, Father John Hogan, received a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI.

I congratulate Father Hogan. And I can’t pass up an opportunity to celebrate St. Genesius the Comedian, a martyr whose life I told in an earlier post titled “Take My Life, Please.”

Genesius (d. 286 or 303) 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, and was repaired and beautified centuries later by Gregory III in 741.