Most modernist Catholics have a sentimental devotion to the early martyrs. Perhaps in the eyes of modernist Catholics, the early martyrs seem like weak but ignorant victims at the hands of bygone Roman procurators. Perhaps this is simply how things happened in a more cruel time of world history? Yet, we must remember that St. Felicity had her execution delayed with St. Perpetua precisely because she was pregnant. Even the Roman Empire would not kill an unborn baby, as they admitted this was shedding innocent blood. So, which age is more cruel? Ours or theirs?
Another thing we may overlook today is that the pagan procurators of the Roman Empire wanted what most people today want: To be told that their own personal religion will get them to heaven. We are currently living through the same thing now, except for the fact that most Catholics today are all too willing to admit the lie that another’s religious pluralism can save him. But just like ancient times, current pagans desire that Christians not so much ignore their perversions as accept them.
How did the early Catholic martyrs behave in front of the threat of paganism? Did they silently endure the torture? Yes, but before that, they frequently rebuked the Roman procurator to insist that his own pagan religion would lead him to hell. The early Christian martyrs did not have an “ecumenical” bone in their body. The early Catholic martyrs lived and died in total opposition to “religious pluralism.” I include such examples from the book The Victories of the Martyrs by St. Alphonsus Liguori below. I especially include the saints’ rebukes of pagans leading up to martyrdom:
St. Ignatius of Antioch:
Trajan asked him the signification of the term Theophorus; the saint replied, “It signifies ‘the bearer of God.’ “ The emperor replied: “You carry God in your heart; and we, have we not also in ourselves the gods that assist us?” The saint answered with enthusiasm: “It is an error, O prince! to give the name of gods to the demons that you adore: there is only one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.”
St. Julitta and her infant son, St. Quiricus
The brutal judge, still more infuriated by this exclamation, caused her sides to be torn with iron hooks, and boiling pitch to be poured upon her feet. Meanwhile one of the bystanders said to her: “Julitta, have pity upon yourself; perish not as your son has perished; sacrifice to the gods.” “I cannot,” she replied, “sacrifice to devils and to mute statues. I adore the Lord Jesus, and wish to meet my son in heaven;” upon which the judge decreed that she should be beheaded. This sentence filled the saint with joy.
St. Vitalis of Ravenna
Information having been given to Paulinus of all that had passed, he said to Vitalis: “How then! Are you mad, to have acted as you have, not being a Christian?” The saint instantly replied: “Nay, but I am a Christian, and am proud to be so. Nor am I mad either. He is mad who gives to wicked men the honor due to God. There is but one only God: this God we adore, and we glory in dying for his sake.” Paulinus loved Vitalis, but his hatred to the Christians prevailed over this feeling, and he ordered Vitalis to be imprisoned; who, finding himself in the company of other confessors, made such manifestation of his joy, that Paulinus became infuriated, and commanded all his joints to be dislocated upon the rack, and his sides to be torn with iron hooks. During these tortures the holy martyr ceased not to preach Jesus Christ, whereupon he was thrown into a ditch and buried alive beneath a torrent of stones, on the 27th of April, of the year 171.
St. Theodora, a native of Alexandria, was descended from noble and opulent Christian parents; she was born towards the close of the third century, and at the early age of sixteen years was distinguished for her beauty… She was amongst the first of those who were arrested, and being presented to the judge Proculus, who was much struck with her beauty, was asked whether she was a slave or a free woman; the saint replied that she was a Christian, having been freed by Christ from the slavery of the devil, and that she was also born of what the world called free parents… The tyrant, having discovered that she was of noble birth, inquired why she had not married. St. Theodora replied that she had abstained from marriage that she might live alone to Jesus Christ her Saviour. “But don’t you know,” continued the judge, “that it has been commanded by the emperor that each one shall sacrifice to the gods, or else be condemned to the most infamous punishments?” “And you also know very well,” re-joined the saint, “that God is careful of those who serve Him, and defends them from contamination…”
St. Eulalia and St. Julia
The two young heroines, travelling by night over an unknown country, injured their feet very much; they arrived, however, at the city in the morning, and presented themselves to Calpurnianus, whom Eulalia upbraided with the impiety of doing honor to the devil, by worshipping statues of wood and stone. The prefect, surprised to hear a young girl speak so, asked her who she was, and why she spoke with such boldness. The saint replied: “I am a Christian, and the God whom I adore inspires me with a horror of your impiety.” The prefect said: “But do you know, child, to whom you speak?” She answered: “I am aware that I speak with the governor, and therefore it is that I call it an impiety to oblige Christians to sacrifice to false gods.” Calpurnianus endeavored to gain her over, first by promises, and afterwards by threats; but the saint continued to proclaim herself a Christian, and that she was most anxious to lay down her life for Jesus Christ. Cardinal Orsi and Fleury add, that she spat in the face of the judge, threw down the idols, and trampled upon the flour which had been provided for an offering.