Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Romanus, Soldier and Martyr

detail from a painting depicting the Conversion of Saint Romanus OstiariusArticle

Saint Romanus was the son of heathen parents, and having reached the years of maturity, he became a soldier in the body guard of the Emperor Valerian. His conversion to Christianity took place through the following circumstances. When the holy Deacon and martyr, Saint Lawrence, was examined by the prefect about his faith and the treasures of the church, Romanus was present, with many other soldiers. The fearless answers of the Saint, the manner in which he opposed the worship of idols, the thorough proofs he cited while defending the Christian faith, gave Romanus the first gleams of Christianity and made him dissatisfied with his belief. When he afterwards saw Saint Lawrence put upon the rack and barbarously scourged with sharp pointed lashes, without manifesting the least pain, the thought took possession of him that the faith which gave such strength to bear the most terrible tortures, must be true. This thought was strengthened when he suddenly saw, beside Saint Lawrence, a youth, undoubtedly an angel, who wiped the perspiration from the brow and the blood from the wounds of the Saint, while at the same time he encouraged and consoled him. At the sight of this heavenly messenger, Romanus became thoroughly convinced that the religion which Saint Lawrence preached must be the true one, in which alone there was salvation, and he resolved to make use of the first opportunity to embrace it. God permitted that the tyrant Valerian should release Saint Lawrence from the rack and send him back to prison, hoping that he might, by still greater torments, be forced to sacrifice to the gods. Hippolytus, who was secretly a Christian, was detailed to guard him. Romanus, taking advantage of this opportunity, went to Saint Lawrence, cast himself at his feet, and informing him of the state of his mind and his resolution, begged to be baptized; he had brought water with him for the purpose. Although rejoiced at this conversion, Saint Lawrence asked him if he was aware of the risk he ran of losing his life by the most terrible torments, if he became a Christian, and if he believed he would have the fortitude not to forsake Christ when suffering martyrdom. Romanus assured him that he was ready to bear anything, and that no danger, nor the most painful death would change him. Saint Lawrence then instructed him, as well as he could in the short time left them, baptized him and exhorted him to be firm. Romanus promised to do so, and faithfully kept his word. It was impossible for him to hide the joy he felt in being ranked among the number of the Christians; his heart was full to overflowing, and he was constantly betraying himself and letting it be clearly seen that he had joined the faithful. The Emperor, on hearing of it, was greatly provoked, as he saw that, by torturing the Christians, he really increased their number instead of lessening them. When Romanus was brought before him, he intended to ask him how far the report of his conversion was true; but the young man, on entering the emperor’s presence, immediately cried out: “I am a Christian! I am a Christian!” This voluntary confession enraged the emperor still more, and he, at once, gave the order, first to scourge the valiant young man, and then behead him. The order was executed. Romanus praised God while he was scourged most cruelly, and cried aloud: “I am a Christian, I am a Christian, and I esteem myself the happiest man on earth, that I am deemed worthy to give my blood in honor of my Saviour, who died so painful a death for me.” After his entire body had been tom by the scourges, he, like a valiant soldier of Christ, ended his life by the sword, on the 9th of August, 258.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Romanus praised the Almighty aloud while he was scourged. You have promised always to praise the Lord, in evil as well as in good days. That you may more easily do so, you must know that we can praise God in two different ways; by words and by deeds. God is praised by prayers, by calling upon Him, by sacred songs, by pious discourses. By deeds we praise God; when we perform good works in His honor; and practice patience and other virtues; when we obey Him and His Holy church, and avoid whatever is displeasing to His Majesty. We cannot at all times praise the Lord in the former of these two ways, because each of us has duties to perform which prevent it; but we can and should praise Him in the latter. The first alone would be insufficient; the second is necessary. “Not only by your words should you praise the Lord, but also by deeds,” says Saint Augustine. “Cease not to live piously, and you wilt always praise the Lord,” says the same great teacher. How have you hitherto praised the Lord? How will you praise Him henceforth?

• “I am a Christian, and I esteem myself the happiest man on earth,” said Saint Romanus. To be a Christian is, in truth, a great happiness; in fact a much greater happiness than to be the mightiest monarch on earth, without the true faith; for he who is a true Christian, is a child of God, a brother of Jesus Christ, an heir to Heaven. “I am a Christian,” says Saint Bernard, “a brother of Christ.” If I am indeed what I am called, then I am joint heir with Christ, heir of God.” But can you say truthfully: “I am a Christian?” Others call you so, I know. But are you in reality what you are called? Does your conduct harmonize with the name of Christian? If your life is not that of a child of God, of a brother of Christ, do not say you are a Christian. A child of the Almighty, a brother of the Saviour should most highly appreciate the honor he enjoys beyond thousands of others, and he should never do anything contrary to the dignity of his high station. “Recognize, O man, your dignity;” says Saint Leo, u and as you have become a partaker of the Divine nature return not again, through your misconduct, to your original depravity. Recollect whose member you are, and do not forget that you have been turn away from the powers of darkness, and are placed in the kingdom of the Lord. Do not again submit to the will of Satan, as you have been redeemed by Christ’s precious blood.” Saint Thomas of Villanova says: “To be a Christian, is to be a soldier of Christ; a disciple, a follower of the Saviour.” A soldier must die; a disciple must listen with attention and pleasure to the instructions of his master, and must live in accordance with them. A follower of Christ must endeavor to imitate His virtues. Have you hitherto fulfilled this threefold obligation? Have you even as much as seriously thought about it? Let it henceforth be your aim; else renounce the name of Christian. You do not deserve it, nor does it benefit you, if you are not, in reality, a Christian. “It is of no benefit to us to bear the name of Christians, if we do not endeavor to acquire Christian virtues,” says Saint Cyril of Jerusalem; and Saint Augustine tells us: “Be a true Christian; for, to be one in name only, is of little avail.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Romanus, Soldier and Martyr”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 March 2018. Web. 20 September 2018. <>