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St. Adrian, September 8

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

St. Adrian lived in Nicomedia around the year 300 and was martyred at age 28.

During those times, Catholics were cruelly persecuted under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Thirty-three Catholics in Nicomedia were denounced, and soldiers were sent to seize them. They were brought in iron chains before the tribunal of the Emperor.

“Can it be you have not heard what manner of torments await them who call themselves Christians?” asked the judge. They replied: “We know of them, but we cannot obey unjust orders. We do not fear the fury of Satan and his ministers, of whom you are one.”

tortures being inflicted on martyrs

Some torments of the early martyrs

Three men were ordered to savagely beat the Catholics with whips made of bull nerves. But while they were undergoing this treatment, the holy martyrs told the judge that whatever number of torments he might devise, he would but increase their crowns awaiting them in Heaven, while he would receive his due for his cruelty in Hell.

They were then brought before Galerius, the prepared successor of Diocletian, who ordered new torments. The soldiers took up stones and struck the martyrs about the mouth. The martyrs berated Galerius, telling him that an angel of God would punish and destroy all of his impious household. Enraged, he ordered that their tongues be cut out. In face of this new torment, they told the ruler: “Even if we are unable to speak, the protests of our hearts will rise to the throne of God proclaiming that we are suffering in innocence.”

Hearing this, Galerius was filled with hate and ordered that they should all be taken to prison to see if any of them would become fearful and apostatize. With this, he left. One of those present was a high dignitary named Adrian. Seeing the great honor of the Catholics, he rejected paganism and said to a functionary: “Write down my name among these admirable persons, for I too am now a Catholic and shall die for Christ God in their company!”

One of Adrian’s servants went to warn Natalie, his wife, about what had happened. She ran to the prison and, falling down at the feet of her husband, she said, “Blessed are you, my Adrian, for you have found a treasure. I ask Christ to give you strength, courage and perseverance in the fight. The goods of this earth are nothing; God desires to give you eternal riches. Therefore, be not weak, but strong and generous like these saints who surround you.”

When Galerius heard this, he became further enraged, and ordered that Adrian be weighed down with iron chains and cast into prison with the other martyrs. They greeted him with great joy, and even those who could no longer walk because of the tortures dragged themselves to him to offer him the kiss of peace. Then Natalie cleaned and bandaged their wounded and bloody bodies.

Adrian was beaten and tortured, returned to the prison, and finally his legs and arms were smote off with an anvil.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

The first point that catches the attention is that these are polemic martyrs. They argued with the judge and threatened him with eternal damnation. They displayed nobility of spirit, telling him that the scourge was but a means for them to gain more pearls in their heavenly crown. Later, they also disputed with Galerius, the man who had been prepared to succeed the Emperor Diocletian.

A bust of emperor Diocletian

Persecutions of Christians began again under Diocletian

Second, you can imagine the shock these pagans felt upon receiving these challenges from the Christians. Every man by his nature knows that Heaven exists. The pagans said the contrary: No, it doesn’t exist. Even though they denied it, they had considerable internal insecurity. Then a pagan judge came and tortured the Christians, who showed an extraordinary assurance not only that Heaven exists but also that they would enter there by means of the very suffering he was causing them. You can imagine the doubt this generated.

Third, one sees the sudden action of the Holy Ghost in the soul of St. Adrian. Instead of being fearful of suffering the torments the martyrs were undergoing, he felt invited to share the honor of being one of such an extraordinary society. Through them, he saw Heaven, and he was moved to join them and die with them.

Fourth, there is the marvelous position of Natalie, who was probably a secret Catholic. When she received the news that her husband had also become a Catholic, she rushed to the prison to give him all the support she could. You can imagine the beautiful scene in the prison, their meeting, the joy of the martyrs who saw that their good example had caused a high imperial official to convert. Even with the tortures, all the wounds and blood, a supernatural joy filled all of them. They came to greet the new convert, even dragging themselves over the floor, to give him the kiss of peace. No natural joy is comparable to this supernatural happiness.

Fifth, from this description and the conversion of St. Adrian, a high dignitary of the Empire, you can realize the perplexity and despair of the Roman Emperors, who realized that Catholicism was invading and undermining their whole world. Taking energetic measures and using violence could not destroy Catholicism. On the contrary it continued to grow. In a certain way, the violence of the persecutions that increased until Constantine was a consequence of this despair.

Let us ask St. Adrian to give us the same grace he received when he saw Heaven and victory in a situation of persecution, torture and martyrdom. Today, in many ways we need a similar grace in our fight when the enemies of the Catholic Church persecute true Catholics. We need the grace to see the victory of the Reign of Mary, the restoration of Christendom, in such persecutions.


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Dr. Plinio
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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