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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

July 28

SS. Nazarius and Celsus, Martyrs

        From two sermons delivered on their festival, the one by St. Ennodius, the other passes under the name of St. Ambrose, and was written soon after his time, perhaps by St. Gaudentius of Brescia; also from Paulinus the Deacon, in his life of St. Ambrose. See Tillemont. t. 2, and Pinius the Bollandist, t. 6, Julij, p. 503.

About the Year 68.

ST. NAZARIUS’S father was a heathen, and enjoyed a considerable post in the Roman army. His mother Perpetua was a zealous Christian, and was instructed by St. Peter, or his disciples, in the most perfect maxims of our holy faith. Nazarius embraced it with so much ardour that he copied in his life all the great virtues he saw in his teachers; and out of zeal for the salvation of others left Rome, his native city, and preached the faith in many places with a fervour and disinterestedness becoming a disciple of the apostles. Arriving at Milan he was there beheaded for the faith, together with Celsus, a youth whom he carried with him to assist him in his travels. These martyrs suffered soon after Nero had raised the first persecution. Their bodies were buried separately in a garden without the city, where they were discovered and taken up by St. Ambrose in 395. In the tomb of St. Nazarius a vial of the saint’s blood was found as fresh and red as if it had been spilt that day. The faithful stained handkerchiefs with some drops, and also formed a certain paste with it; a portion of which St. Ambrose sent to St. Gaudentius, bishop of Brescia. St. Ambrose conveyed the bodies of the two martyrs into the new church of the apostles, which he had just built. A woman was delivered of an evil spirit in their presence. St. Ambrose sent some of these relics of St. Paulinus of Nola, who received them with great respect, as a most valuable present, as he testifies. 1
  The martyrs died as the outcasts of the world, but are crowned by God with immortal honour. The glory of the world is false and transitory, and an empty bubble or shadow; but that of virtue is true, solid, and permanent, even in the eyes of men; for, to use the comparison of St. Basil, 2 as the more we look upon the sun the more we admire it, and by reviewing it never find it less bright or less beautiful; so the memory of the martyrs which we celebrate, after so many years, is only more fresh in our minds, and will be more flourishing in all ages to come.  2
Note 1. St. Paulin. Carm. 24, and ep. 12. On the relics of St. Nazarius at Milan, see the life of St. Charles Borromeo, by Guissiano, in the new Latin edition, l. 5, c. 9, p. 435, and the notes of Oltrocci, ibid. [back]
Note 2. S. Bas. hom. de S. Gordio. [back]