Saints Nereus and Achilleus
Saint of the Day for May 12
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Saints Nereus and Achilleus’ Story
Devotion to these two saints goes back to the fourth century, though almost nothing is known of their lives. They were praetorian soldiers of the Roman army, became Christians, and were removed to the island of Terracina, where they were martyred. Their bodies were buried in a family vault, later known as the cemetery of Domitilla. Excavations by De Rossi in 1896 resulted in the discovery of their empty tomb in the underground church built by Pope Siricius in 390.
Two hundred years after their deaths, Pope Gregory the Great delivered his 28th homily on the occasion of their feast. “These saints, before whom we are assembled, despised the world and trampled it under their feet when peace, riches and health gave it charms.”
As in the case of many early martyrs, the Church clings to its memories though the events are clouded in the mists of history. It is a heartening thing for all Christians to know that they have a noble heritage. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have stood in the same world in which we live—militaristic, materialistic, cruel and cynical—yet transfigured from within by the presence of the Living One. Our own courage is enlivened by the heroes and heroines who have gone before us marked by the sign of faith and the wounds of Christ.