This is my dream, fantasy conversation. Imagine a beautiful room with a fountain and pool. Imagine good food, and wine.served in a newly decorated triclinium in the villa of Aetius, who is married to the beautiful Paula. They has two young sons. Aurelius, Aetius, Gaius, and Lucius are sitting at cena, talking about the latest news concerning the February 24, 303 law.
The wives are in the culina, with the maids, getting more wine for the evening's conversation. These women, Paula, Rufina, Valeria and Vita talk. Valeria has put the children to bed for the night in her house with trusted slaves in another part of the city. Paula's children have just gone to bed. Now, these women are wondering at the news concerning the new law.
They had all been to the basilica in the morning for mass and prayed there.
In fact, the priest, Justin, promised he would come for the evening, but he had not.
Aetius sent out two Catholic servants to find out what is happening.
The men discuss these points. Will they be safe as part of the upper classes? Will their Catholic servants be safe? What of their children?
What of their families in other cities, like Antioch, Mediolanum, even Cordova? Should these family members be warned, or will they find out soon enough the news of the horrible new edict?
The women join the men just as one of the servants of Justin comes through the door. Justiin, the priest, has been arrested and is prison. He will be forced to worship the gods of Olympus, or be killed.
Silence covers the room, like dread.
Then, Gaius speaks first. "I shall take my family to Cordova, where my brother has a business. We shall see what happens there. I shall not wait and watch my household divided. We have discussed this before today."
Valeria, his wife, puts her hand on his arm and leaves the room. She moves quickly, and crosses Rome with a servant to their house. She is ready. She has seen the signs of the times. She will gather her five children, and be gone as soon as possible. Her parents live in Mediolanum. She has talked with them before, but they would not listen. They cannot believe the Roman people would allow their Catholic friends to be killed. Perhaps her parents are right, but she must think of her children.
Two will become priests.
Lucius and Rufina are a young couple. They have no children. But, they have a country house. Lucius asks the men if they think the area of Tivoli would be safe. No one is sure. The villa may be too close to Rome.
Aurelius and Vita are the oldest couple. Their children, all Catholics, are gone, living in Antioch, and in Massalia. Would Massalia be safe? Their son is a government official in that city.
The men decide to make plans to leave now, except for Lucius, who believes he and his wife will be safe in Tivoli, at least for now.
But, the servant, Albinus, shares that he heard a rumor that even the Pontiff, the Pope, would not be safe in the countryside. Indeed, in one short year, Pope Marcellinus would be martyred, on April 1st, 304, and finally buried in the Cemetery of Priscilla, the Via Salaria, on April 26th.
The men become silent. Then, Gaius suggests they pray, and read the Scriptures, as he has a copy with him of the Gospel of Mark. He is a rich man and had a copy made for his household, and for the church.
He reads this: erunt enim dies illi tribulationes tales quales non fuerunt ab initio creaturae quam condidit Deus usque nunc neque fient, Mark 13:19.
Gaius and Valeria, their five children, and all their servants disappear during the night to Cordova. They leave most of their things. They know that some Catholics have already been killed in Seville. They will avoid that city. They leave by cart, and then by ship. Gaius makes sure he is carrying the Gospel of Mark with him. He takes only gold and what they need for the journey.
Albinus, the servant, leaves with Aetius and his wife, Paula, and two young sons within days. No one sees them leave. No one knows where they went. Their surname is still alive centuries later-Macinus, Macini.
Lucius and Rufina decide to go to Tivoli to their country estate. They invite Aurelius and his wife to stop on the way. No one stays in Rome. By six o'clock the following morning, Aurelius and Vita are on their way to their son in Massalia with two trusted slaves. They prayed and decided not to stop in Tivoli. They will contact their daughters in Antioch when they are settled in Massalia.
But, these are the ones who talked about such a day in the recent past in their lives.
These are the ones who passed the Faith on to their children. These are the ones who had an "exit strategy".
To be continued.....