Turin - The symbolic fresco of Twelve apostles in church Chiesa di San Dalmazzo by Enrico Reffo (1914).

Saint Marcellus, originally from Arzas in Galicia, lived an extraordinary life marked by bravery, transformation, and ultimate sacrifice. Initially a pagan, he aspired to make a fortune in the military, climbing the ranks to become a centurion. Married to Nona and blessed with twelve children, his life took a dramatic turn upon encountering the impassioned teachings of a bishop from the church of Leon. This encounter led to the conversion of Marcellus and his entire family to Christianity, a decision that would eventually lead to martyrdom for all except Nona.

In the era of the Roman Empire, the dilemma for Christians serving in the imperial armies was profound. The intertwining of pagan rites with military service presented a moral conflict. Could one truly serve in the army while upholding Christian values of love and peace? For St. Marcellus, the answer ultimately became clear.

In the year 298, during the extravagant celebrations marking Emperor Maximian Herculeus’s birthday, Marcellus found himself at a crossroads. Serving as a centurion in the legion of Trajan in either Mauritania or Spain, he decided to take a stand. Refusing to partake in the pagan sacrifices, he abandoned his post, discarded his weapons and declared himself a soldier of Jesus Christ. This act of defiance landed him in prison.

Following the festivities, Marcellus was presented before a judge. Undeterred, he once again professed his Christian faith, resulting in his being sent to the prefect Aurelian Agricolaus under heavy guard. The sentence was swift and brutal: death by the sword. Marcellus met his end on October 30th, 298.

Cassian, a court secretary present at the time, found the sentence unjust and refused to document it. His act of defiance swiftly led to his imprisonment and execution on December 3rd.

Saint Marcellus’s children carried his legacy of unwavering faith, each losing their lives in defense of the Gospel. In a heartbreaking display of maternal love, Nona recovered their bodies, burying them in secret. Eventually, their remains were moved to a church in Leon, built to honor their sacrifice.

Photo credit: Hontañon3 via Wikimedia Commons

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