In the times of the Great Persecution, the Roman army was re-organized to become even more faithful to the emperor.
The financial life of the empire was re-organized with new taxes.
Family life was "renewed" with the revival of the cult of the gods of Olympus.
One must stop and say that on the outside
these ideas looked good to the public who thirsted for renewal.
But, what was the problem with Rome on the "inside"? What levels of evil lurked under the reorganization of a great people?
There is only one evil which informed all the great evils which led to and which sustained the Great Persecution.
And that one evil is idolatry.
Once a people idolizes their own civilization more than God, the end of that people is near.
The one thing which the early Church had as the priority was that there was only One God in Three Divine Persons to be loved and worshiped. All else, like community and sharing, came from this focal point.
But, dear readers, one must practice this denial of sin and the denial of the will daily.
Do you think the early Catholics lived in nice times?
This persecution we see commonly now is the world in which they lived. Catholics need to prepare for more.
The inside eventually becomes the outside--the dead souls eventually take over the lands once led by those who were trying to be good, trying to be holy.
Idolatry is the great sin of this age.
Only those who worship the one true God, the Trinitarian God can stand up against such evil.
Are you getting ready?
A reader asked me for another story, another fantasy to help all understand the times: here it is.
The "Villa of the Vineyards" was the talk of the city. Builders and artisans worked day by day restoring the old Pudens mansion on the southern side of the urbs. A modern Celer ordered slaves and freemen in the cold air of February, taking advantage of the lack of rain.
The closest neighbors to the owners of the delle Vignacce, as the locals called it, was the family of the famous Julia Claudia Paulina Severini, a branch which had escaped the purges of later emperors beginning the Crisis of the Third Century. The great-grandchildren of the Severini lived in the Villa del Ave, a smaller, less grandiose version of delle Vingacce, but grand none the less.
This family had welcomed the Tetrarchy, but now regretted that their favourite, Diocletian, had turned against the Catholics.
This large family had relatives in Ostia, an uncle who owned ships and a shipping yard. And, Sabina, the matriarch of the Villa del Ave, had a brother, who was a priest, serving the bishop at Basilica of Santa Aurea.
Sabina opened a letter sent via servants. She was at breakfast with her husband, Maximus, and adult children, Flavia and Lupus. Flavia was engaged to the Catholic Lucas, who lived in Rhegium, of another shipping family. Lucas and Flavia were to be married in June.
"This letter was written yesterday, the 23rd, Maximus, and is from my brother Claudius. He writes that by the time I read this letter, the bishop will have been either arrested or in hiding. He suggests we go to Ostia and take a ship as soon as possible to avoid today's decree. The bishop had been warned by a Catholic member of the emperor's household."
Maximus put down his spoon. He was eating a fruit compote mixed with honey and seeds. Maximus had digestive problems and could not eat the meat that Flavia and Lupus were "scarfing down".
"It will not be as bad as people think it will be, Sabina. I am not moving. I cannot leave the men who are chafing at the complete destruction of the senate by this tyrant. We want to try and convince the other emperors to re-instate our power. I mean, it is a time of change."
Sabina looked sorrowfully at her husband. She knew that he, like so many others in their church, did not think that the citizens of Rome would cooperate with the slaughter of Catholics.
If Ostia was dangerous, even leaving on one of their own ships could be too obvious and too dangerous.
But, Sabina knew the real reason for Maximus' reticent to talk about the coming persecution. His elderly parents lived only a mile away and he would not leave Fabius and Domitilla, who would be too old and too stubborn to move. Sabina ate a pear.
"I think I should change the wedding date, pushing it up to late February. We could do that, Mater, could we not?"
Sabina smiled sadly. "I think it would be a good idea, but your Father determines this, Flavia."
"No, we are not changing anything. I cannot believe my good pagan friends would rise up against us or any of the ancient families. I just do not believe this."
Sabina stood up. "Come, Flavia, you and I have work to do with the poor baskets." The Mater could see tears clouding the young woman's eyes and wanted to speak with her privately. The two women left the room to Maximus and Lupus.
"Pater, are we allowed by Christ and the Church to fight? I am ready." Maximus looked at his son. He loved Lupus more than anyone else, and the name of the family would be carried down in his blood.
"Yes, remember what the bishop said at Mass. We have a right to defend ourselves. We do not have to be blind sheep. But, it most likely will not come to that."
Lupus knew that was the end of the conversation. He bowed to his father and left to find Sabina and Flavia. He wanted to reassure them of his protection.
In the house of Fabius and Domitilla, another conversation was taking place. Domitilla's old brother, Aelius, was trying to convince the old couple to leave.
"You do not understand the powerful rhetoric of this Diocletian. In the name of Roman virtues, he begins to kill the Catholics. No one will be safe."
Fabius answered with a bang of his fist on the table. "No, it will not happen. There are too many Catholics hidden in the military. They will not arrest their own. You will see a rebellion."
Aelius stared at his plate of vegetables and meat. The cook at this house was famous throughout Rome.
"Someone might envy you your cook, Fabius."
"And, I do not want you talking to your sister about these things. You frighten her."
Aelius jumped in, "Yes, I want her to be scared, and you as well. You think your wealth and status will protect you. The Bishop of Ostia is in hiding and the Bishop of Antioch is already missing. My servants brought me word this morning, as I have contacts."
Aelius continued..."And our other sister Amelia, has already left for a frontier town where her son is a governor. You know the place."
Fabius stood up, "Enough. I am not going to Limes Germanicu because of scare-mongering. I trust the people of Rome. Now, good day, Aelius."
Fabius left in a huff. Domitilla poured water for her brother. "Dear Aelius, I agree with you, but I must be loyal to Fabius. You understand."
Aelius put his hand on the old hand of his younger sister. "I am afraid for you both, Domitilla. If you want me to stay, I shall but I plan to go with Amelia."
"Go with my blessing, Aelius. I can say no more."
The two separated forever. Aelius and Amelia went to Germany and died there in a small community of Catholics. In Rome, the situation escalated quickly. Within the month, all the Catholic nobility were sent letters from Diocletian offering them amnesty if they sacrificed to the gods of Olympus. In April, the lower class areas were being "cleansed" of Catholics. By May 1st, the villas of Fabius and Maximus were confiscated by the government and the inhabitants arrested.
Fabius, Domitilla, Maximus, Sabina and Lupus were executed by sword. Their Catholic servants died in the Colosseum. Lupus had helped Flavia leave in the night before the arrests. She and Lucas travelled to Mauretania Caesariensis, one of the newly re-organized provinces of the Dioecesis Africae. They had many children and thrived as a family until the entire family but one, perished in the Muslim take-over and establishment of Maghreb. That one, Maximus the Tenth of that name, sailed to the land of the Angles and married a local girl, who was of the great, prosperous family in Bignor.
Perhaps one of their descendants is today crossing a street in Arundel and perhaps his name is Maxim. Perhaps, he is a Catholic.
to be continued.............