Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Genesius, Martyr

small pewter statue of Saint Genesius, artist unknownArticle

At the time of the Emperor Diocletian, the world renowned enemy of the Christians, there lived at Rome a celebrated pagan actor and juggler, named Genesius. His conduct was licentious and insolent. He hated the Christians most profoundly, and was devoted, heart and soul, to idolatry. Knowing that he could not please the Emperor better than by ridiculing the Christians, and by shamelessly imitating all their mysteries, he resolved, one day, to represent baptism, with all its ceremonies, as ludicrously as possible. To this effect he made himself well acquainted with all that takes place at holy baptism, appointed the parts, and explained to those who were to act, what they were to do. It was his ambition to make this holy sacrament as contemptible as was in his power. The day of representation came; the Emperor, his whole court, and a great many people were present. The comedy began; Genesius acted the principal part. Feigning to be sick, he lay down, calling to his friends to bring him something to relieve his suffering. When they had done as he requested, he said that as he felt he had soon to die, he would become a Christian, and they should baptize him. Everything was brought upon the stage that was used at baptism, and all the questions were put to him which are made to those who are to be baptized. In fact, the entire ceremony was performed, but in so ludicrous a manner, that the Emperor and all the people shouted with laughter. But, oh! incomprehensible prodigy! oh! great mercy of God! At the moment when the wanton pagan actors scoffed and blasphemed the holy sacrament of the true Church, the Almighty touched the heart of Genesius and illumined it with a ray of His divine compassion. Suddenly, an entire change took place in the actor, and he loudly and earnestly proclaimed himself a Christian. His companions, not knowing what had happened, continued the blasphemous mockery. When the whole ceremony was performed, they threw over Genesius a white robe in derision of the garment usually given to the newly-converted and baptized, and thus clothed they presented him to the people amidst great hilarity. But Genesius, already a true believer in Christ, turned to the Emperor and other spectators, and confessed, with great dignity, what had taken place within him. He declared solemnly, that until that day, blinded by idolatry, he had scoffed and derided Christianity, and therefore proposed to represent baptism on the stage, for the amusement of the people. During the sacrilegious performance, his heart had suddenly changed and, desiring to become a Christian, he had received baptism with this desire. He said that he had seen the heavens open, and perceived a hand that touched him, when the baptismal water was poured over him. He further stated that before they had baptized him, he had seen an angel, with a book in which all his past iniquities had been recorded, who assured him that they would all be washed away by holy baptism, and that, in fact, he had, after the ceremony, seen that all his vices had been obliterated from its pages. After relating this, he added that he renounced idolatry, and believing that Jesus Christ was the son of the Almighty, and the Redeemer of the world, he would, henceforth, live and die a Christian. In conclusion, he exhorted the Emperor and all present, to follow his example and worship the only true God. They all thought, at first, that Genesius was jesting, but when they perceived that he was in earnest, the Emperor became enraged at his noble and frank confession, and gave immediate orders that his garments should be torn from him, and that he should he whipped with scourges and clubs, before all the people, and then be cast into prison. Plautian, the prefect, received orders to renew this punishment daily, until Genesius would abandon his new faith. The first order was executed without delay, and Plautian was only too punctual in the accomplishment of the second. The holy confessor was stretched upon the rack, torn with iron hooks, and burned with torches. “Miserable man!” called the Prefect to him, while he was thus suffering, “submit to the imperial command, and sacrifice to the gods, that you may save your life, and find grace.” The holy martyr replied: “Your Emperor is but a mortal man; whoever desires the favor of such, may seek it of him. I pray to the immortal King of heaven and earth, and will never forsake Him. I know that He, who received me in holy baptism, is the true King, and I repent for having so often derided and offended Him. I will not obey Diocletian, whose reign will soon be over, and who will one day become as naught. You may torture me, therefore, as much as you like; I will remain faithful to my God. If you had the power to kill me a hundred times, you would not be able to take Him out of my heart or my mouth.” Plautian, provoked at his fearlessness reported his words to the Emperor, who ordered him to beheaded, which sentence was accordingly executed, in the year of our Lord 303; and thus Saint Genesius, who from an idolater, had became a Christian, and from a scoffer of Christianity, a fearless confessor of the Saviour, received the crown of martyrdom.

The Roman Martyrology mentions another Genesius, born at Arles in France, who, at first a soldier, became afterwards a public notary, and, was one day, ordered to write an edict against the Christians. Although a heathen at that time, he recognized the injustice of the act, and refused to transcribe it. Being urged to obey, he threw away his writing-tablet, confessed himself a Christian, and willing rather to lose his office, and even his life, as a follower of the Saviour, than to become guilty before God by writing so unjust an order. This heroic resolution cost him his temporal life, but insured him an eternal happiness.

Practical Considerations

• How wonderful is the Almighty in the conversion of even the greatest sinner: how merciful even towards those who have bitterly offended Him! At the moment in which Genesius roused His just wrath, by making a ridiculous sport of holy baptism, He changed his heart, and turned him into a valiant defender of the Christian faith, and soon after, into a glorious martyr. Hence, if you see a great sinner, do not despise him. Who knows if he may not, one day, become a fervent penitent, a great Saint? The hand of the Lord, who changed a publican into an Apostle, a persecutor of the Church into one of her protectors, and a scoffer into a martyr, has lost none of its power. He is able to save the greatest sinner. How merciful is He at the same time! Genesius deserved for his sacrilegious scoffing to die a sudden death and be precipitated into the lowest depth of hell. God did not act on him according to his deserts, but spared him from the merited punishment and gave him the grace to recognize his fault and to wipe it away with his blood. Have not you also experienced equal mercy at the hands of the Almighty? Behold at the very moment when you offended Him, you deserved to die in your sin, and thus be lost forever. God spared you. What God showed you this mercy? The same whom you had so greatly offended. He gave you time and opportunity to do penance. He exhorted you to do penance, not as if it were of any benefit to Him, but because He is merciful and loves you. Sink on your knees and give thanks to Him for so incomprehensible a kindness. “A thousand times,” said the penitent Augustine, “a thousand times could You most justly have condemned me, if You had been willing to do so. You have not done it because You love my soul.” Say the same for yourself, and confess that a God so merciful deserves that you should not offend Him again.

• Genesius profited by the knowledge which God had given him, and also by the time and grace bestowed upon him by divine mercy. He repented of his fault and atoned for it by a public confession of the Christian faith, from which not even death could divide him. How do you profit by the knowledge God has given you? how by the time? how by the grace? Do you cooperate with this grace? do you use the time for penance? do you correct the faults you have committed? are you. constant in your reform? Woe to you if you act not thus! You have reason to fear that God will deprive you of grace, if you do not employ it to your salvation. He will take from you the time and opportunity for doing penance, because you do not spend it for the end for which it was bestowed upon you. The greater the mercy of the Almighty has been to you heretofore, the more severe and terrible will be His justice. The longer God has waited for your conversion, the more painful will be your punishment, if you do not accept His grace. “Do not despise the mercy of God,” admonishes Saint Augustine, “if you do not wish to become aware of His justice. Measure by the greatness of His mercy, the extent of His justice; for, the Almighty is infinite in His justice as in His mercy.” Saint Bernard writes: “The longer God waits for our conversion, the more severely will He punish us if we neglect it.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Genesius, Martyr”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 April 2018. Web. 11 December 2018. <>