Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July 2 - Rufina and Secunda, Martyrs

Everything seemed pretty rosy for Rufina and Secunda. After all, they lived fairly comfortable lives. They had each other for a best friend. They were betrothed to men that they loved and respected and who were also Christians. They had the support of their families both in their pending marriages and in the expression of their faith. Plus, they seemed to be growing daily in their devotion to their Lord Jesus and their activity in His Church. It seemed that everything was going exceedingly well for the two young women. That is to say they were going well until Valerian ramped up his persecutions against the Christians. Valerian rode the wave of military success to expand his ventures of death and torture among the Christians who still refused to swear their allegiance to the emperor and his empire.Though Valerian had yet to arrest and martyr Sixtus, Laurence, or Cyprian, he was well on his way to his own personal vendetta and massacre. The fianaces of Rufina and Secunda were arrested by the emperor's men and given two choices: deny their faith and swear their allegiance to Rome, or maintain their traitorous allegiance to Jesus and die at the hands of the empire.Woefully, the two men chose to save their lives and deny their Lord.

When the men returned to Rufina and Secunda it was evident what they had done. They would never have been allowed to leave if they hadn't taken part in some infernal imperial bargain. Rufina and Secunda were shocked that their fiances had given up the faith to which they still steadfastly clung. The men tried to convince the women to join them in their apostasy so that they might still be married and live happy lives. The women tried to convince the men that no life gained at the cost of their souls was worth living. They debated for quite some time before finally Rufina and Secunda told their fiances to leave them and forget all about them--Rufina and Secunda were unwilling to be joined in love with one who had forsaken the greatest of loves. As they parted, the men insisted that if Rufina and Secunda had been forced to face the same pressures and threats then they, too, would have caved before the imperial powers and seen the damnable reason of the empire's commands. Rufina and Secunda were unconvinced but the men comforted themselves in their apostasy by insisting it was inevitable and not truly a matter of choice. After all, the alternative meant they had abandoned life more abundant for only a little more of this corrupted life.

That night Rufina and Secunda gathered some of their possessions together and they set out to flee. They knew that their fiances had been charged with convincing them to renounce their faith and would be expected to return with compliant women to the imperial courts. Once the men arrived and told those in power that Rufina and Secunda had remained steadfast in their faith they would be arrested.So, they fled. They made it as far as Etruria before they were finally apprehended and brought before a prefect. The prefect knew their story and so he offered them one chance to change it and to offer a sacrifice of their faith before the empire. They refused and where beaten severely. The prefect wasn't so much interested in extracting a renunciation so much as causing two who had opposed Rome to suffer and die. Having proven their ex-fiances wrong, they accepted the martyr's crown when the prefect had them beheaded. Their bodies were recovered by the Church they had refused to leave and buried with a Christian funeral.

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