Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Marcellus and His Sons, Martyrs

Saint Marcellus the CenturianArticle

Saint Marcellus, mentioned today in the Roman Martyrology, was a centurion, or captain over a hundred, in one of Trajan’s legions. The bravery he had manifested in many battles had made him a great favorite with his General; but he was still more beloved by the Almighty on account of the edifying and Christian life which he led, though surrounded by wicked people. He did not, for a long time, make it known that he was a Christian; but when the imperial army in Gallaecia, a province of Spain, was celebrating the birth-day of the emperor Dioclesian with great festivities, and offering the usual sacrifices to the gods, Marcellus confessed he was a Christian and could not take part in their worship. This frank confession caused him to be immediately seized and brought before Agricolaus, commander of the imperial body-guard. When asked whether he was in truth a Christian, Marcellus replied fearlessly: “Yes, I am a Christian, and nothing will induce me to abandon Christ.” Agricolaus, unwilling to dispute with him, sentenced him forthwith to die by the sword. Marcellus, thankful for the grace vouchsafed him to die a martyr, willingly bowed his head to receive the fatal stroke.

He had twelve sons, all of whom he had carefully brought up in the Christian faith and prepared for martyrdom. When they, after the death of their father, were presented to the Governor and admonished by him to forsake their faith, there was not one among them who did not show himself ready rather to die than become faithless to Christ. The heroic example of their father had made so deep an impression on them, that they were not to be intimidated: hence they were deemed worthy to die the same death which had obtained for him everlasting life. The Governor sentenced them all to be beheaded. The joy, which they manifested when they arrived at the place of execution was so great, that even the heathens could not hide their astonishment. Their pious mother, Nonna, was now left alone. When she was told of the death of her husband and children she rejoiced greatly and gave thanks to the Almighty for the grace which He had vouchsafed to them. Her only desire was that God might deem her worthy to die the same death, and she prayed constantly to be united again with her loved ones. Her prayer was heard by the Almighty. She did not die a martyr, but a pious Christian, a faithful handmaid of the Most High; for, her life had been one continued exercise of all Christian virtues.

Practical Considerations

Saint Marcellus and his twelve sons entered heaven by martyrdom. The pious mother followed her spouse and children, not crowned as a martyr, but as a faithful Christian. How glorious an example! Father and mother, with their twelve children, all saved, in heaven! none lost, none condemned! Whence this great happiness? Mar- cellus and Nonna lived piously, instructed their children carefully, and taught them by their own conduct. The children followed their parents, received their instructions, and conformed their lives to the example before them. Hence, all were saved, all went to heaven. How different is the result, when the parents are careless in the instruction of their children, and when they do not walk before them in the right path, or when children do not follow their parents and receive not their instructions. Therefore, on the day of judgment, there will be a great separation between parents and children. The parents will stand on the right and the children on the left; or the children on the right and the parents on the left. Or, perhaps, one part of the children will stand with one parent among the elect, the remainder with the other among the condemned. If parents and children would be saved together, then the former must endeavor to keep their children, by word and example, in the right path, and the latter must conform their lives in accordance with the precepts of their parents.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Marcellus and His Sons, Martyrs”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 May 2018. Web. 17 January 2019. <>