Thursday, November 29, 2007

Saint Saturninus of Carthage

Although I posted about him last year, for those of you new to the blog, let me introduce you to a friend of mine.

Today is the feast day of Saint Saturninus of Carthage, Marytr.
(I am not sure if he was a priest or not.)
(Not to be confused with Saint Saturninus of Toulouse, Bishop & Martyr, whose feast is also today.)

There might be more interest in Saint Saturninus of Carthage now because he is in the universal calendar for the extraordinary form of the Mass (he was even in the hybrid Mass Roman Missal of 1964), and the older form of Mass is being said more again.

The old Roman Martyrology has this about Saint Saturninus:
Romæ, via Salaria, natális sanctórum Mártyrum Saturnini senis, et Sisinii Diáconi, sub Maximiáno Príncipe; quos, diu in cárcere maceratos, jussit Urbis Præfectus in equuleum levári et attrahi nervis, fustibus ac scorpiónibus cædi, deínde eis flammas apponi, et, depositos de equuleo, cápite truncari.

At Rome, on the Salarian Way, the birthday of the holy martyr, Saturninus, an aged man, and the deacon Sisinius, in the time of Emperor Maximian. After a long imprisonment, by order of the prefect of the city they were placed on the rack, stretched with ropes, scourged with rods and whips garnished with metal, then exposed to the flames, taken down from the rack and beheaded.
- from's Roman Maryrology pages(Sorry, it's a good site for the old martyrology, but the site is run by sedevacantists).

The new (2004) Roman Martyrology has this:
Romæ in cœmetério Trasónis via Salária Nova, sancti Saturníni Carthaginénsis, mártyris, qui, ut sanctus Dámasus papa refert, sub Décio imperatóre pro Christo in pátria in ecúleo impósitus est et Romam extórris missus, ubi, áliis atrócibus torméntis superátis, Gratiánum tyránnum ad fidem convértit et cápite obtruncáto corónam martýrii adéptus est.
(My rough translation)
At Rome, in the cemetary of Trasonis on the New Via Salaria, Saint Saturninus of Carthage, martyr, who, Pope Saint Damasus relates, that under the Emperor Decius, in his homeland he [St. Saturninus] was placed on the rack for Christ, and sent into exile in Rome, where, having overcome other severe tortures, converted the tyrant Gratianus to the faith, and [St. Saturninus] being beheaded obtained the crown of martyrdom.
I'm not sure what happened to St. Saturninus' deacon companion Sisinius in the new Martyrology. I often worry that some parts of legends are automatically thrown out if they can't be proven, rather than keeping them until the can be proven false. That is often the case in the rather snotty comments in the Thurston & Atwater edition of Butler's Lives of the Saints.

Still, the fact of the matter is that Saint Saturninus was martyred in Rome and his remains are at a side altar at the Basilica of Saints John and Paul (the ones menioned in the Roman Canon).

So, while visiting the basilica for the first time back in 2000, I "met" and developed a devotion to this martyr of old age. Again I wish to thank Father Cassian of Norcia for the suggestion to visit this basilica. It really is a hidden treasure that is not on the main tourist circuit.

While digging around on the internet I also found a bit more about him.

A brief article at had this to say:
St. Saturninus
The Martyrology gives these details: "At Rome on the Via Salaria the death of the holy martyr, the aged Saturninus, and of the deacon Sisinius. Under the emperor Maximianus they suffered long in prison. The prefect of Rome ordered them placed on the rack till their joints were torn loose, then beaten with knotted whips, and burnt with torches; at last removed from the rack, they were beheaded." According to the inscription on his tomb by Pope St. Damasus, Saturninus hailed from Carthage. The Acts of Marcellus say he was condemned as a frail old man to carry sand for the construction of the Baths of Diocletian; but when by his patience and prayer and encouragement he led many to the faith, he was beheaded.

Then I found something really interesting. Saint Saturninus' relics have been kept in the sarcophagus at the Basilica of Saints John and Paul:

I also learned from the sacristan there (thanks to my translator Father Clement of Norcia)that some of the relics were also given to a new parish in Rome named after Saint Saturninus. However, he was originally buried in the Catacombs, and Pope Saint Damasus wrote a beautiful epitaph on his tomb there:

Epigraph of Pope Saint Damasus for St. Saturninus
Citizen now of Christ, formerly of Carthage,
The moment the sword pierced the Mother's holy breast,
through her blood he changed country, name and lineage,
the birth to the life of the saints made him a Roman citizen.
His faith was wonderful: as his heroic death would later show.
His enemy Gratianus trembled while he tore his holy members;
but though all his venomous rage exploded,
he could not induce you, O Saint, to deny Christ;
indeed through your prayers he even deserved to die a Christian.
This is the will of the suppliant Damasus: venerate this tomb!
[Here it is given to fulfil vows and to pour out chaste prayers,
because it is the tomb of the martyr St Saturninus]
To you, O Martyr Saturninus, I pay my prayerful homage.


I also found the collect for his feast (which used to be on the universal calendar before the changes of Vatican II) from the traditional Divine Office:
Deus, qui nos beáti Saturníni Mártyris tui concédis natalício pérfrui: eius nos tríbue méritis adiuvári. Per Dóminum nostrum Iesum Christum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia saécula sæculórum. Amen.

Let us pray.
O God, Who givest us to rejoice in the feast of Thy blessed Martyr Saturninus: grant that we may be helped by his merits. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.

I have become devoted to him, and love the fact that in spite of his old age he suffered for Christ, to the point of torture, exile, more torture, and martyrdom. He does show that God chooses the weak to shame the strong.

When I was in Rome a few months ago, it was good to visit my old friend again.

Sancte Saturníne (et Sancte Sisinie), ora(te) pro nobis.

"To you, O Martyr Saturninus, I pay my prayerful homage" as well.

And to any priests who are saying the extraordinary form of the Mass and can follow the traditional calendar or who say the ordinary form and have a copy of the Roman Martyrology, I invite you to remember him as well.

(Sorry if this entry is a bit thrown together. Yes, some of it is stolen from last year's entry on Saint Saturninus. However, it's 1:45am here, and the city is using jackhammers about a block away from my apartment to get to a watermain break. Figured I'd get this post up since sleep is not an option at the moment.)


1 comment:

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Wow! i never heard of him before..thanks for that post..