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Liturgical day: January 21st: Saint Fructuosus, bishop and martyr and deacon’s martyrs Augurius and Eulogius

Gospel text (Jn 17,11b-19): Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed, «I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world whereas I am going to you. Holy Father, keep them in your Name that you have given me, so that they may be one, just as we are. When I was with them, I kept them safe in your Name, and not one was lost except the one who was already lost, and in this the Scripture was fulfilled.

»But now I am coming to you and I leave these my words in the world that my joy may be complete in them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them because they are not of the world; just as I am not of the world. I do not ask you to remove them from the world but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world; consecrate them in the truth —your word is truth. I have sent them into the world as you sent me into the world, and for their sake, I go to the sacrifice by which I am consecrated, so that they too may be consecrated in truth».

«I have given them your word and the world has hated them»

+ Fr. Josep VALL i Mundó
(Barcelona, Spain)

Today, in the Dioceses of Catalonia the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Fructuosus, bishop and martyr and of his deacon’s martyrs Augurius and Eulogius. We are well informed about their martyrdom by the authentic Acta; in particular, by the so-called “Passió dels sants màrtirs Fructuós or Fruitós, Auguri i Eulogi” (Passion of the saints martyrs’ Fructuosus or Fruitos, Augurius and Eulogius). They died at the stake a day like today, January 21st, of the year 259, under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus.

The Mass for these Saints begins with these beautiful words, which perfectly synthesize their life of commitment and love in their episcopal and diaconate service: «More inflamed in love for Christ than by the flames of fire, Fructuosus, Augurius, and Eulogius, the three young men thrown into the furnace, cheerfully gave evidence of the resurrection they were awaiting».

We, Christians, must all bear witness to Christ. Even by giving in our own life if necessary. «Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed» (Jn 12:24), i.e., it does not give any fruit. Our Tarragon saints, as ministers of Christ, gave much fruit throughout their lives by word and action; but in the end they gave it all up, like so many other martyrs of those times of persecution, by offering their own life in cruel martyrdom. Before the crying people of God who gathered at the Tarragon amphitheater, Fructuosus encouraged them by saying: «You will not long be lacking a shepherd, nor can the love and promises of the Lord fail you either here or in the hereafter. For what you look upon now seems but the weakness of a single hour»

Tarragon has always stood out by its good shepherds. Tertullian, a Christian writer, had already stated, a few years before, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church". And it did actually so happen in that Imperial city. From that See, Christianity quickly spread to many other places. How convenient would it be to remember here and now those verses from the pre-Christian roman poet Virgil, which can be applied to Fructuosus and his two deacons! «a new offshoot of a fructuous plant is scattered there / and within short, a gentle tree / its fertile branches stretching skyward / marvels at its new leaves / and at fruits that do not belong to it».