Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Timothy, Saint Hippolytus and Saint Symphorian, Martyrs

Saint Symphorian, MartyrArticle

The Roman Breviary places the commemoration of these three holy Martyrs in one lesson, although they did not all suffer in the same place or at the same time. Saint Timothy came from Antioch to Rome, during the reign of Pope Melchiades, and as, at that period, the Christians were much persecuted, he went on foot through the city and encouraged the Christians to constancy. A whole year he worked in this manner to the great benefit of the faithful. When Tarquinius, the Prefect, was informed of it, he had him apprehended and thrown into a dark, damp dungeon. Having for some time suffered the miseries of imprisonment, he was brought before the judges and commanded to worship the gods. Finding him willing to suffer the greatest torments rather than obey their wicked commands, they cast him again into prison, after they had cruelly beaten and otherwise maltreated him. This was done a second and a third time. All manner of tortures were tried oh him in vain. Timothy only became the more firmly resolved never to forsake his God. Finally, the order was given to behead him, which, to the great rejoicing of the holy martyr, was soon executed. Many idolaters, seeing his constancy, became converts to Christ.

Saint Hippolytus, a bishop, greatly renowned for his holiness and learning, came from Arabia to Rome, during the time of Pope Callistus, to visit the tombs of the holy Apostles, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. At this period, Ulpian, a celebrated judge, and at the same time, a bitter enemy to the Christians, administered the affairs of the city. No sooner had he heard that Saint Hippolytus had arrived, than he ordered him to be seized and brought into his presence. The holy bishop confessed, without hesitation, that he was a Christian, He was commanded to forsake Christ and worship the gods; but he refused to obey, and not only treated with contempt all promises and threats of the judge, but also bore the most cruel torments. The tyrant at last, caused the holy bishop to be tied hand and foot and thrown into a deep pit filled with water, where he ended his life.

Saint Symphorian, a youth of twenty years, the son of a noble Senator of Autun, in France, was baptized by Saint Benignus, a pupil of Saint Polycarp, and instructed in the Christian faith. He led a blameless and truly Christian life, which he ended by a glorious martyrdom. The occasion of this was as follows. The heathen inhabitants of the city celebrated, according to their custom, a special festival in honor of the goddess Cybele, whom they regarded as the mother of all the gods. Her image was carried through the city with great splendor, and all the heathens prostrated themselves before it, and worshipped it on bended knees. Symphorian, who witnessed this spectacle, would neither bend his knees, nor give any sign of respect. The heathen looked upon this as a great insult offered to the goddess, and they accused him before Heraclius, judge of the city, who asked him who he was and why he had not worshipped the great goddess. “lama Christian,” replied he, “and my name is Symphorian. I pray only to the true God, who reigns in heaven. I will not worship the image of the devil; but, if you give me the permission, I will destroy it.” On account of this speech, the Saint was not only regarded as a blasphemer, but also as a rebel, because he had not only defamed the great goddess, but also had disobeyed the imperial order, according to which all subjects of the empire were bound to worship the gods. Heraclius, after censuring his speech severely, threatened to torture him most cruelly, if he should persevere in refusing to obey the Emperor’s command. Symphorian, representing to the judge the nothingness of his gods, said in answer to his menaces: “I fear only the omnipotent God, who created me, and Him only will I serve. You have my body in your power for a short space of time; but you have not my soul.” The judge, not willing to dispute with the fearless Confessor of Christ, ordered him to be beheaded, after he had been tortured in different ways. Symphorian evinced great joy at this sentence; and as he was led to the place of execution, his pious mother called to him: “My son, Symphorian, think of the eternal life. Look up to heaven and remember who reigns there. They cannot take thy life, but only change it into a better one. From this world you wilt go to a world of never-ending bliss.” This exhortation of his mother sank deeply into Symphorian ‘s heart and he went rejoicingly to the place where he was to receive the crown of martyrdom. On arriving there, he fell upon his knees, thanked God for the grace of being permitted to die for His sake, and received’ his death-stroke without faltering. On the place, where his holy body was buried, a magnificent Church was afterwards erected. The heathens themselves witnessed many miracles which were wrought by the intercession of Saint Symphorian.

Practical Considerations

• You admire, without doubt, these three martyrs for worshipping only the true God, and for suffering neither torment nor death to change them. You despise the blindness of the heathen who regarded an image made by man, or some other miserable creature, as a god. Why then have you so often turned away from God, even without the danger of torment or death? Why have you so often followed the example of the heathen in their blindness, by honoring a human creature like an idol, and being more anxious to please it, than the Lord your God? The holy Apostle says to the pagans and of those who are like pagans, that their stomach is their God, or that they regard it as their God; because all their thoughts are bent to please it by gluttony; and because they are more anxious to satisfy their stomach, than the Almighty. Yes, they even transgress the laws of God and the church without all fear, in order to; refuse nothing to their stomach, The same may be said of other sins; for, according to the words of Saint Isidore, each mortal sin belongs in a certain degree, to idolatry; as a sinner, by despising or forsaking the true God, selects something temporal, which he prefers to the Almighty. “That which one loves more than God, that which he prefers to Him,” says Origen, “the same is his God.” Hence, according to this teacher, a sinner cannot say to the true God: “Thou art my God!” for, his God is his stomach, or money, or empty honor, or sensual pleasures. How much wickedness, therefore, must every sin contain! How great a punishment must await the sinner, who leaves the true God in so disgraceful a manner, and who, by his actions, denies Him! Guard yourself against such idolatry. Be constant to the true, the only God, and forsake Him not for temporal honors, for a trifling gain, an infamous pleasure, or for love of any human being. Endeavor to be able to say to the Lord with truth: “My Lord and my God! My God and my all!” But who is it that can truthfully say this? Saint Jerome says: “He whose heart is not swayed by sin.”

• “I fear only the omnipotent God, who has created me,” said Saint Symphorian. He did not fear the tyrant; nor could any threats prevail upon him to worship the false gods. He feared God alone; hence he would rather suffer martyrdom than offend Him. You have reason to fear God; for, He is your Judge, who has power to condemn you for all eternity. You cannot oppose Him. You have reason to fear only Him, and to fear Him much more than all human beings, because He can punish you much more than all human beings. He can cast your soul and body, for all eternity, into hell, which the power of all men united would be unable to do. All mankind cannot shield you from His wrath; He alone can save you from the wickedness of men and of evil spirits. Hence, fear God, fear Him alone, and fear Him more than all men. But if you really fear the Almighty, take care not to offend Him; and if you have offended Him, endeavor to reconcile yourself to Him, without loss of time, by true repentance. This is required of you by the fear of the Lord. If you offend Him without shame, and do not endeavor to reconcile yourself to Him, do not say that you truly fear Him. “The fear of the Lord hates evil.” (Proverbs 8) “Fear God and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3) “Fear God, and keep His commandments.” (Eccl. 12) “The fear of the Lord drives out sin.” (Eccl. 1)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Timothy, Saint Hippolytus and Saint Symphorian, Martyrs”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 April 2018. Web. 21 November 2018. <>