Deacon Companions

7 Aug

Pope Sixtus and companionsI’ve often wondered about the saints who go down in Church history as “companions.” For example, today the Church celebrates the feast of Pope St. Sixtus II and companions, who were martyred in 258 A.D. during the persecution of Emperor Valerian.

Clearly the “companions” are the “supporting actors and actresses” in the drama of Church history, supporting saintly protagonists in bearing witness to their Savior. These humble servants remained faithful to the end, and their blood became the seed for the Church in their respective eras.

But who are today’s companions? Well, Valerian issued a decree to the effect that all bishops, priests, and deacons were to be summarily put to death because of their opposition to the pagan worship of the empire. Pope Sixtus was executed on August 6, 258. His “companions” in martyrdom were six of his seven deacons (cf. Acts 6:1-6). Their names were Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus, and Agapitus.

Who was the seventh deacon? Did he flee from the persecutors? Did he go into hiding? Hardly. It was none other than St. Lawrence, perhaps the most beloved deacon in the history of the Church, who was martyred a few days later, on August 10. The universal Church celebrates his feast on Saturday. While Lawrence was a distinguished servant (diakonos) of the Lord and the “right hand man” of his beloved Pope, I suspect he also took great delight in simply being known as a “companion” of his brother deacons.

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