Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Saturnine, Martyr, of Rome

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Saturnine lived at Rome at the time of the emperors Dioclesian and Maximian. When it became known that he was a Christian, they condemned him to perform the hardest labor, although he was already far advanced in years, and enfeebled by age. The tyrants had perceived that, instead of destroying Christianity by tortures and death, they only strengthened it, as though the blood shed by the martyrs were seed from which constantly sprang up new and fervent worshippers of Christ. Hence a new manner had been adopted to torment the Christians, and thus induce them to abandon their faith. They were sent to work in the copper mines, to cut stones, to carry sand, lime and other materials used in building, or to attend to the cattle, and do other menial work, without receiving anything for their sustenance but bread and water. Besides this, they were guarded by cruel overseers, who allowed them no rest during the day, and at night a very short one, while they whipped them like dumb brutes, and otherwise maltreated them. Such a fate the Christians had to endure, until they either expired or denied their faith. Satan, without doubt, was the inventor of this kind of martyrdom, as it seemed harder than any other, especially to those who were not accustomed to manual labor. Many, who had borne other torments fearlessly, became discouraged by the pressure of this new trial, and abandoned their faith. To this hard lot was the old and feeble Saturnine condemned. He bore it with a happy heart, because he knew that he suffered for Christ’s sake. One of the overseers gave him a certain amount of work, which was to be done at an appointed time, and as the venerable old man had not the strength to do it, he was maltreated most mercilessly, like a beast of burden. Sisinius, a pious deacon, who had been condemned to the same labor, had pity on the old man, and relieved him of a part of his work. Both showed themselves, notwithstanding their troubles and hardships, always cheerful, praising Him for whose sake they bore this cross. Their cheerfulness astonished the pagan officers; and when Dioclesian heard of it, he not only promised to release them from all work, but also to place them in high positions if they would consent to worship the idols. The two holy men indignantly rejected the offer. The emperor then gave them into the power of the praetor, Laodicius, that he might force them to obey. Laodicius cast both into a dungeon, and allowed them no nourishment. When they were famished with hunger and thirst, he called them into his presence, and finding them still as constant as before, he placed them on the rack, tore their limbs asunder, whipped them with scourges called scorpions, burned their wounded bodies with torches, and, finally, ordered them to be beheaded. During these dreadful and manifold torments, not a word passed their lips, except to praise the Lord. They sang, rejoicing in their pains: “Praise, honor, and thanks to Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, that Thou hast made us worthy to partake of Thy sufferings.” These, and similar words, they repeated as long as they lived. Many of the heathens, seeing the constancy of these holy martyrs, became converted to the true faith.

Practical Considerations

Saint Saturnine accepted the hard work allotted to him with cheerfulness, and performed it as well as he could, without manifesting sadness or impatience; he even praised the Almighty while he labored. God, who has created man for work, has also ordained that each station should have its own task. He graciously promises to recompense this work in the other world, if it is done rightly. Those do very wrong, who neglect what their station requires of them, and who are slaves to idleness. Those also do wrong, who become impatient with their work or even curse it. They lose their merit and the reward which they would have earned, had they performed their work with due patience. Should your task be burdensome, cheer yourself, after the example of Saint Saturnine, and call on God for aid.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Saturnine, Martyr, of Rome”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 1 June 2018. Web. 14 November 2018. <>