The Martyrs of Gafsa
Only 34 years after the death of Augustine, in 484, King Hunmeric issued a decree that all monasteries were to be abolished, and the monks and nuns were to be handed over to the Moors.
Seven brothers from the monastery of Gafsa, Tunisia, were arrested. They were the Deacon Boniface, the Subdeacons Servus and Rusticus, their Abbot Liberatus and the monks Rogatus, Septimus and Maximus.
They were forcefully taken to Carthage. There they were at first offered worldly rewards if only they would renounce Christ and their Augustinian way of life.
When they steadfastly remained faithful to Jesus, they were thrown into prison. At first, Christians from Carthage bribed the jailers, who permitted them to offer material and spiritual support to the prisoners.
When the King learned of this, he ordered that the seven captives be burned to death. Before imposing this cruel execution, the King’s soldiers made particular efforts to persuade the youngest monk, Maximus, to escape death by denying Christ. Maximus refused to do this, proclaiming his allegiance to God and to his brothers in Augustine.
The soldiers tied bundles of dry wood to the seven monks and placed them on an old boat or raft. However, when they tried to set the wood on fire, they were not able to make the wood burn. At this the King became very angry. He then commanded that the monks be beaten to death.
The seven died for the sake of Christ, united in their faith and Augustinian fraternity.
From the Augustinian Lectionary, we have the following readings
- Reading I: 2 Maccabees 7:1.20-23.27-29
- The selection of the edifying story of a mother and her seven sons who refused to renounce their faith at the cost of death. Highlighted in the selection is the exhortation that the mother gives to her older sons, and the one she tells the youngest.
- Reading from the Gospel: Matthew 10:34-36
- During the course of his instructions to the apostles whom he sends out for the first time, Jesus tells them about the kind of opposition they will receive. And it is Jesus himself who will be the reason for the persecution that they will have to undergo. Because of him families will be divided and become enemies to each other.
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