April 10 – Terence and the 40 Martyrs of Carthage; Antony Neyrot

Terence and the Forty Martyrs of Carthage (d. ca. 250). When Emperor Decius decided to pluck the Christian tares from the pagan wheat, his governor in Carthage, Fortunianus (I was going to gloss his name but thought better of it), gathered the townsfolk together, filled the town square with all the torture implements at his disposal, and said, “Now sacrifice to the idols.” Terence and 39 (or 40) other Christians refused, mocking them and blowing raspberries (or equivalent). Fortunianus was wroth, and made fun of them for worshipping an executed criminal. “Don’t be silly,” they said. “He did that on purpose, and then he rose again.” The Gov had the ringleaders Terence, Africanus, Maximus, and Pompeius separated from the others and put in prison.

The remaining 36 were tortured in myriad ways, then dragged into the temple, where they cried out asking God to destroy the place as he had destroyed Sodom. God obliged—the idols toppled, and the temple collapsed around them. Fortunianus, fearing he might lose control of the situation, had them beheaded.

The other four were then brought out of prison and shown the bodies of their comrades, but they still refused to sacrifice to idols. They were bound in heavy chains and returned to prison to starve to death, but in the night angels came to them with bolt-cutters and catering, and in the morning the guards found them well-fed and happy and not in the least inclined to apostatize. Fortunianus had his sorcerers throw snakes and poisonous nasties into the cell, but when the guards peeped in later, the martyrs were praying, and the critters were playing around their feet like happy puppies (which is smile-o-genic to say—try it!). The sorcerers opened the door to see what was going on, and they were all bitten and died. Finally Fortunianus, sensing eminent loss of control, had Terence & Co. beheaded. Other Christians came by later, and buried their bodies reverently.

Anthony Neyrot (1425–1460) was born, became a Dominican, and was priested before his story was a paragraph old, at least in my sources. He monasticized for a time in Florence under the future St. Antoninus, but it wasn’t to his liking. Nor were any of the monasteries he tried, and he tried a few. Finally on one trip he was captured by pirates and taken to Tunis. The Caliph there liked him, and treated him kindly, but Tony was so obnoxious about his Christian faith that they eventually got sick of him and threw him in prison. Clearly not cut out for the ascetic life, he grew so tired of bread and water that he renounced his faith to gain his freedom.

To all appearances, Anthony took to Islam like a duck[1]. He married a Turkish noblewoman, was adopted by the king, and even began translating the Qur’an (into what, it doesn’t say). Then he received word that Antoninus was dead, and felt a twinge of guilt. When Antoninus appeared to him in a dream and gave him a mental morsel[2], the twinge metastasized. He found the local Dominican exchange office and confessed all he had done, and on Palm Sunday, he was received back into the faith. They even found him a spare Dominican-style habit. Wanting to be as public about his new old faith as he was about his old new faith, he waited until that (Holy) Thursday, when the king was having a parade, rushed up onto the palace steps, and loudly proclaimed his faith in Christ. He was peremptorily dragged out of town and stoned to death.

His body was redeemed “at great expense” by some Genovese merchants, and returned to his hometown of Rivoli, where it was associated with many miracles. An annual pilgrimage even sprang up. His sainthood was confirmed by Clement XIII in 1767.

[1]Actually duck religion is something about which I am wholly ignorant. By choice.
[2]Get it?