Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint Symphorian, Martyr

statue of Saint Symphorien, 15th century, artist unknown; Chapel of Our Lady of Locmaria-an-Hent, Saint-Yvi, Finistere, Brittany, France; photographed on 15 September 2018 by Yann Gwilhoù; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

About the year 180 there was a great procession of the heathen goddess Ceres at Autun in France. Amongst the crowd was one who refused to pay the ordinary marks of worship. He was therefore dragged before the magistrate and accused of sacrilege and sedition.

When asked his name and condition, he replied, ‘My name is Symphorian; I am a Christian.’ He came of a noble and Christian family. He was still young and so innocent, that he was said to converse with the holy angels.

The Christians of Autun were few, and little known, and the judge could not believe that the youth was serious in his purpose. He caused the laws enforcing heathen worship to be read, and looked for a speedy compliance. Symphorian replied that he must obey the laws of the King of kings. ‘Give me a hammer,’ he said, ‘and I will break your idol in pieces.’ He was scourged and thrown into a dungeon. Some days later this son of light came forth from the darkness of his prison, haggard and worn, but full of joy. He despised the riches and honours offered to him, as he had despised torments. He died by the sword, and went to the court of the heavenly King. Little more than a century later the Roman empire bowed before the faith of Christ. Many miracles spread the glory of Saint Symphorian and of Christ the King of Saints.

Loyalty to Christ

The Catholic religion teaches us to be subject to every rightful authority. But no earthly authority has any right against Christ and His Church. If we are accused of sedition or disobedience because we are faithful to our religion, then we must choose as Saint Symphorian chose, and obey God rather than man.

‘I fear the Almighty God who made me, and I serve Him alone.’ – Saint Symphorian

The mother of Saint Symphorian stood on the city walls and saw her son led out to die. She knew the honours he had refused and the dishonour of his death; but she esteemed the reproach of Christ better than all the riches of Egypt, and she cried out to him, ‘My son, my son, keep the living God in your heart; look up to Him who reigns in heaven.’ Thus she shared in the glory of his passion, and her name lives with his in the records of the Church.

‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ – Acts 5:29

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