Feast Day: June 2nd | Priest and Exorcist | Imagery: Middle-age Men, Tonsured, holding Palm or Crown indicating Martyrdom; Marcellinus in Chasuble, Peter in Alb
Fragments of their final days trickled out to their fellow Christians: of Peter’s imprisonment, but then his marvelous deliverance of the jailor’s daughter from demonic influence! Yet, the good priest Marcellinus, who came to baptize the family who had all chosen Christ, ended up imprisoned as well, both he and Peter held in horrible, tortuous, conditions. In a scene reminiscent of the worst viciousness man has inflicted on man, the priest Marcellinus and the exorcist Peter after their brutal imprisonment were marched outside of Rome, ordered to clear the ground for their own grave, and were then beheaded. Those tasked with carrying out Diocletian’s persecution did not want their bodies to be found.
But God had other plans! In a dream that very night, the two martyrs, now splendid and glorious, appeared before the Christian woman Lucilla, showing her where they had been martyred. Their bodies were carefully collected, and their relics have been passed down through all the ages of the Church since. Why such an importance on finding their bodies? Why not just pass on their story, their example, their courage? Why dig catacombs? Why risk life and limb to save the bodies of the martyrs? Why, when almost everything else about these men has been forgotten, do we remember their death, and reverence their bones?
Certainly, and perhaps most importantly, we care for the bodies of our dead because we believe that all of us will be resurrected to bodily eternal life. God created an entire material world, and seems to like it quite a lot, and all of it is meant, somehow, for eternal glory, especially our human bodies. This is precisely the truth underscored by Christ’s ascension, with His human body, into Heavenly Glory. BUT, there is another dimension that we often forget: we also believe that all of us here and now, in our bodies, already give glory to God. Grace enters our world in a bodily way! “[T]he believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering.” [CCC1004] “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Cor 6:19-20]
Christ’s ascension is enacted within us now by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit! This was the Spirit that operated through Peter’s touch to drive away Satan’s oppression. This was the Spirit that allowed Marcellinus to overcome his natural fear of death and choose the path Christ placed before him, even if death may be the consequence. And this is the same Spirit that is given to all of us to persevere through our own share of hardship, to patiently respond when love is demanded of us, to choose the duty of our state in life and know how God has entrusted it to us, to place our confidence in God when it seems easier to handle it ourselves, to pray for someone when that is not what they asked of us, to give ourselves bodily to the work of God. It may not even feel “holy”. You can still offer bodily sufferings to God when you’re stuck in bed. You can still give Him glory when you didn’t get a goal accomplished. You can still give Him thanks when you are fasting, or feasting. Sts. Marcellinus and Peter remind us that our bodies are sacred, they carry the Holy Spirit, and everything we do with them matters to God.
– Fr. Dominic is currently sitting in a coffeeshop, wishing he had gotten more of St. Francis de Sales read, and more of these articles written, and more emails sent … but God didn’t create our bodies just to get work done … though that truth is one He continues to impart more and more deeply into me.