Text from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal,
unless otherwise stated.
The Seven Martyred Brothers
And Saint Rufina And Saint Secunda,
Virgins And Martyrs.
Feast Day 10 July.
The Seven Brothers (Seven Sons of Saint Felicitas of Rome).
Author: Richard de Montbaston et collaborateurs.
The Church, celebrating today the triumph of The Seven Sons of Saint Felicitas (Feast Day 23 November), who were Martyred under their mother's eyes, praises this courageous woman (Epistle), who, by exhorting them to die, "was herself victorious in all of them" [Sixth Lesson at Matins: Sermon of Saint Augustine].
She extended her maternity to the Souls of her children by making them accomplish The Will of God (Gospel, Communion). They died in 150 A.D., under the Emperor Antoninus.
A Century later, Rufina and Secunda, sisters by birth, became doubly so by mixing their blood at the same execution, rather than lose the Virginity they had Consecrated to Jesus, their Spouse. They were Martyred at Rome, under the Emperors Valerian and Gallienus, in 257 A.D.
Mass: Laudate, pueri.
Saint Felicitas (also known as Felicity) is said to have been a rich and pious Christian widow, who had seven sons. She devoted herself to charitable work and converted many to The Christian Faith by her example.
This aroused the wrath of pagan priests, who lodged a complaint against her with Emperor Marcus Aurelius. These priests asserted the fire of the gods and demanded sacrifice from Felicitas and her children. The Emperor acquiesced to their demand and Felicitas was brought before Publius, the Prefect of Rome. Taking Felicitas aside, he used various pleas and threats in an unsuccessful attempt to get her to worship the pagan gods. He was equally unsuccessful with her seven sons, who followed their mother's example.
Before the Prefect Publius, they adhered firmly to their religion, and were delivered over to four judges, who condemned them to various modes of death. The division of the Martyrs among four judges corresponds to the four places of their burial. She implored God only that she be not killed before her sons, so that she might be able to encourage them during their torture and death, in order that they would not deny Christ.
After each execution, she was given the chance to denounce her Faith. She refused to act against her conscience and so she, too, suffered Martyrdom. Certain communities around the United States still celebrate San Marziale (Saint Martialis/Saint Marshall) with a San Marziale Festival, typically held on 10 July or near that date. Celebrations have been held in Philadelphia and Kulpmont, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
She was buried in the Catacomb of Maximus, on the Via Salaria, beside Saint Silvanus. It is said that she died eight times. Once with each of her sons, and finally her own death.