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)

One Lord, one faith, one baptism

On April 26, 1642, an immense crowd was gathered round the triangular gallows at Tyburn, and an elderly Welshman, who had come to be hanged, stood up in the cart to make his speech. He was Edward Morgan, a Flint-shire man who had been to school at Douai and made priest at Salamanca. He had been imprisoned in the Fleet for fourteen years, and suffered great hardships, before being brought to trial under the Parliament. He waited till the crowd was quiet, and everybody was astonished at his cool and smiling demeanour. He began with the sign of the cross, and gave out a text : ‘The Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep.’ He explained that he was going to be hanged simply because he was a Roman Catholic priest, and was very glad to die for the Good Shepherd who died for His flock. ‘I offer up my blood for the good of my country, and for a better understanding between the King and Parliament.’

Then he went on to preach a full sermon on the Unity of the Church, and persisted in finishing it in spite of several interruptions from the Protestant ministers. There is one God, one faith, one baptism, he said; so there must be one Church. He gave proof that the Catholic Church was the one true Church going back to the apostles, and showed that the recent sects are all too new to have any claim to be the Church of Christ. At the end he asked God to forgive all who had injured him, and also (he said) ‘my own innumerable sins.’

Then, ‘with a merry countenance,’ he told the hangman to do his duty and said: ‘I pray thee, teach me what to do, for I never was at this sport before.’

Whereupon the minister said : ‘Mr. Morgan, this is not a time to sport, nor is it a jesting matter.’

‘Sir,’ he replied, ‘I know it is no joking matter for me, but good sober earnest. But God loveth a cheerful giver, and I hope it is no offence to anyone that I go cheerfully and merrily to heaven.’

He was allowed to hang until he was dead, before the rest of the sentence was carried out.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)