Legends of the Fourteen Holy Helpers – Saint Achatius, Martyr

Saint Acacius of Byzantium reliquary; scanned from an old holy card; photographer unknown, artist unknownLegend

Of the saints named Achatius, that one is reckoned among the Holy Helpers who, as a Roman soldier, died for Christ.

Achatius was a native of Cappadocia and as a youth joined the Roman army during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, attaining the rank of captain. One day, when leading his company against the enemy, he heard a voice saying to him, “Call on the God of Christians!” He obeyed, was instructed, and received Baptism. Filled with zeal, he henceforth sought to convert also the pagan soldiers of the army. When the emperor heard of this, Achatius was thrown into prison, then placed on the rack, bound to a post and scourged, because he refused to offer sacrifice to the idols. When all these tortures availed nothing, he was brought before the tribune Bibianus.

Asked by him what was his name and country, Achatius replied, “My name is Christian, because I am a follower of Christ; men call me Achatius. My country is Cappadocia. There my parents lived; there I was converted to the Christian faith, and was so inspired by the combats and sufferings of the Christian martyrs that I am resolved to shed my blood for Christ to attain heaven.” Then Bibianus ordered him to be beaten with leaden clubs, after which he was loaded with chains and returned to the prison.

After Achatius had been in prison seven days, Bibianus was called to Byzantium, and ordered all prisoners to be transported there. On the journey Achatius suffered greatly, for his entire body was covered with wounds, his chains were galling, the guards were cruel and the roads were bad. He thought himself dying. Praying to God, a voice from the clouds answered him, “Achatius, be firm!” The soldiers of the guard were terrified and asked each other, “What is this? How can the clouds have a voice?” Many prisoners were converted. Next day some of the converts saw a number of men in shining armor speaking to Achatius, washing his wounds and healing them, so that not even a scar remained.

Arrived in Byzantium the saint was again cast into prison, and after seven days dragged before the judge. When neither promises nor the most cruel torments shook the constancy of the brave confessor of the Faith, the judge sent him to Flaccius, the proconsul of Thracia, who imprisoned him for five days, and meanwhile read the records of his former trials. Then he ordered him to be beheaded. Achatius suffered death for Christ on May 8, 311.

Lesson

Achatius manfully and without fear confessed the Faith amid persecutions and sufferings. We, too, are often placed in circumstances where the profession of our Faith and the practice of the virtues inculcated by it cause us trials. But so deplorable are the effects of sensuality, avarice, and ambition, and such is the laxity and spiritual callousness of many Christians, that there is real cause for every one to be filled with alarm for the safety of his soul. It is not the crowd we are to follow, but the precepts of the Gospel. Therefore we ought to strive to give a good example by our faithful compliance with the demands of religion. For Our Lord Himself exhorts us: “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Prayer of the Church

O God, who dost give us joy through the remembrance of Thy blessed martyrs, Achatius and his companions; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be inflamed by the example of those for whose merits we rejoice. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

– from Legends of the Fourteen Holy Helpers by Father Bonaventure Hammer, 1908