It’s St. Crispin’s Day. Before I was a Catholic, I wouldn’t have know this, or that there were two men being commemorated. So who are Crispin and Crispinian? Christian twin brothers, martyred in the year 285 or 286. Turning to the always open YIMCatholic Bookshelf, I found this legendary story on the two saints in Jesuit Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger’s Lives of the Saints. Here’s what he reports,
According to the testimony of the Roman Martyrology, these two Saints were brothers, of a noble family of Rome. Not contented that they themselves had been educated in Christianity, they endeavored also to win others to the true faith. With this intention they went to Soissons in France, and to be better concealed from the persecutors of Christianity, they learned to make shoes, hoping that this would give them better opportunities to become acquainted with the heathens and to convert them to Christianity.
Their hopes were not deceived. They were so clever in making their shoes, asked either no pay at all, or very little for their work, and treated every one so politely and kindly, that they were universally beloved and esteemed. They forgot not, however, their principal object, but whenever it was possible they spoke with those, who came to them, of religion, and exposing the blindness of heathenism, they explained the truth of Christianity with so much success, that they converted more infidels than others did with long sermons.
Guess who they are the patron saints of? You guessed it—cobblers, tanners, and leather workers. St. Paul was a tent maker, so why not? And like him, they were intent on spreading the Good News.
The two holy brothers continued thus undisturbed in their apostolic labors, until, after the lapse of several years, some hardened idolaters were informed of it, who immediately went to the Emperor Maximian, and denounced them as enemies of the gods and disturbers of the old religion.
Man, why does this seem like it was written last week? Except in this case, the dour stuffed shirts are the idolaters and the Christians are the new-fangled religion practicing “atheists.” Look out C & C!
The Emperor sent a written order to the prefect Rictiovarus to imprison Crispin and Crispinian and duly to punish them. Rictiovarus had both brothers brought before him, asked whence they came, and why they sojourned in Soissons. They answered: “We are noble Romans, and compassion for the blinded people, who by worshipping false gods, would make themselves for ever unhappy, brought us hither. We have endeavored to show them the way of salvation by bringing them to the knowledge of the only true God of heaven and earth.”
This is not going to go over well. It never does, no matter how nicely you say it. But these cats are fearless,
See what lengths of brutality men will go to make you change your mind? What, you thought it was only going to be harsh words that were flung at them? But the lads called to Heaven for help, see? And trust me, they needed Angelic support, because the wrath filled agents of Caesar were about to get very innovative in their methods of “enhanced persuasion.”
The prefect, incensed at this speech, menaced them with most horrible tortures if they refused to deny their God and to sacrifice to the idols. “We do not fear your menaces,” said the holy brothers; “it is our desire to suffer for Christ’s sake.” Rictiovarus, unwilling to contend any longer with them, ordered them be to put upon the rack, and to be severely scourged; after which, sharp irons were driven between their finger-nails and the flesh, and large pieces cut out of their backs.
During this terrible martyrdom, the holy men called to heaven for grace and help, and God sent an Angel to them, who took the irons out of their fingers. The tyrant, not being able to comprehend how this was done, after the custom of the heathens, ascribed it to magic and became still more angry. Without loss to time he had a large cauldron brought and filled with melted lead, into which he ordered both the holy martyrs to be thrown, not doubting that they would thus die a most painful death.
But the same God who had manifested His power in so many other dreadful martyrdoms, showed also in these two brothers, that His arm had not lost its strength. Crispin and Crispinian sat quietly in the cauldron, without any signs of suffering, and with a loud voice praised God.
Cauldrons of melted lead?! I just looked up the melting point for lead: 600.61 K, 327.46 °C, 621.43 °F, which is mighty hot, no matter which way you slice it. So, when instant death doesn’t occur to them…
Rictiovarus became almost beside himself with rage, but had to pay dearly for his cruelty; for when he went near to see if they were not practising some deceit, a drop of the molten lead struck his eye and gave him indescribable pain.
Notwithstanding this, he would not relent, but ordered an immense fire to be built and both the Saints to be cast into it. The Angel, however, who had already miraculously assisted them, brought them unharmed out of the flames.
Do you remember how St. Francis of Assisi wanted to walk through fire in order to convert the Sultan in 1219 during the 5th Crusade? It’s because of stories like this one, and his indomitable faith in God, that he was willing to do that. Unlike the Sultan, who was kindly impressed by the demeanor of Francis,
Hereupon, as some writers affirm, Rictiovarus became like one who had lost his senses and in despair threw himself into the fire, thus miserably perishing, both body and soul. The Emperor, when informed of this, gave orders that the fearless brothers should be beheaded. The saints, rejoicing at this sentence, knelt down at the place of execution and received the stroke which set their souls free.
Their holy bodies were left a prey to wild beasts, in accordance with the imperial command; but they remained untouched, till some courageous Christians carried them during the night from the place of execution and buried them with due reverence. How pleased God was with the zeal and constancy of these holy brothers, He has manifested to the whole world by many miracles wrought at their tombs.
Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, Pray for us.
Update: How about some Shakespeare?