Cruelty is always in men’s hearts

In spite of Christianity the cruel and bloody spectacle of the amphitheatres, especially the gladiatorial shows, still continued in the early fifth century.

An old hermit named Telemachus lived in the mountains, and heard at prayer a voice telling him: ‘Go to Rome ”I have work for you there !’ He was old and reluctant and tried to treat it as illusion, but the voice persisted and at last he took the toilsome road to Rome.

Arriving there one morning, he was drawn along to the Coliseum with the crowds which were converging there. He took his seat, an incongruous figure, unmindful of the mocking smiles of the city folk around him.

Two parties of gladiators marched round the arena and lined up to fight. Then the old hermit suddenly knew what he had to do, and strength came to him to do it. He ran down the gangways, got into the arena, and stood between the combatants and shouted: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ who died for men! Do not kill each other!’

A moment of silence, then laughter from the gladiators and an angry roar from the crowd. Someone threw a stone, many others followed. In a minute or two St. Telemachus lay dead on the sand.

But the incident was talked of everywhere, and many said he was right. The Christian conscience awakened, and soon the Emperor issued a decree which ended these cruel and murderous public entertainments.

Cruelty, blood-lust, even murder lives under the surface in the hearts of ordinary men. Only Jesus Christ is strong enough to hold it in check.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part III: The Commandments (1939)