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

August 26

St. Genesius, a Comedian, Martyr

CHRIST who, to show the power of his grace, and the extent of his mercy, called a publican to the apostleship, honoured with the glory of martyrdom this saint, drawn from the stage, the most infamous school of vice and the passions, and the just abhorrence of the holy fathers of the church, of all zealous pastors, and all sincere lovers of virtue. The Emperor Dioclesian coming to Rome, was received with great rejoicings. Among other entertainments prepared for him, those of the stage were not neglected. In a comedy which was acted in his presence, one of the players took it into his head to represent, in a ludicrous manner, the ceremonies of the Christian baptism, which could not fail to divert the assembly, who held this religion, and its mysteries, in the utmost contempt and derision. This player, therefore, whose name was Genesius, and who had learned some things concerning the Christian rites from certain friends who zealously professed that religion, laid himself down on the stage, feigning himself sick, and said: “Ah! my friends, I find a great weight upon me, and would gladly be eased.” The others answered: “What shall we do to give thee ease? wouldst thou have us plane thee, to make thee lighter?” “Ye senseless creatures,” said he, “I am resolved to die a Christian, that God may receive me on this day of my death, as one who seeks his salvation by flying from idolatry and superstition.” Then a priest and exorcist were called, that is to say, two players, who personated these characters. These sitting down by his bed-side, said: “Well, my child, why did you send for us?” Here Genesius, being suddenly converted by a divine inspiration, replied, not in jest, but seriously: “Because I desire to receive the grace of Jesus Christ and to be born again, that I may be delivered from my sins.” The other players, proceeding mimically, went through the whole ceremony of baptism with him; but he in earnest answered the usual interrogatories, and on being baptized was clothed with a white garment. After this, other players, habited like soldiers, to carry on the jest, seized him, and presented him to the emperor, to be examined, as the martyrs were wont to be. Genesius then declaring himself openly, said aloud, standing upon the stage: “Hear, O emperor, and all you who are here present, officers of the army, philosophers, senators, and people, what I am going to say. I never yet so much as heard the name of a Christian but I was struck with horror, and I detested my very relations because they professed that religion. I informed myself exactly concerning its rites and mysteries, only that I might the more heartily despise it, and inspire you with the utmost contempt for the same; but whilst I was washed with the water, and examined, I had no sooner answered sincerely that I believed, than I saw a company of bright angels over my head, who recited out of a book all the sins I had committed from my childhood; and having afterwards plunged the book into the water which had been poured upon me in your presence, they showed me the book whiter than snow. Wherefore, I advise you, O great and mighty emperor, and all ye people here present, who have ridiculed these mysteries, to believe, with me, that Jesus Christ is true Lord; that he is the light and the truth; and that it is through him you may obtain the forgiveness of your sins.” 1  1
  Dioclesian, highly enraged at these words, ordered him to be most inhumanly beaten with clubs, and afterwards to be put into the hands of Plautian, the prefect of the prætorium, that he might compel him to sacrifice. Plautian commanded him to be put upon the rack, where he was torn with iron hooks for a considerable time, and then burnt with torches. The martyr endured these torments with constancy, and persisted crying out: “There is no other Lord of the universe besides him whom I have seen. Him I adore and serve, and to him I will adhere, though I should suffer a thousand deaths for his sake. No torments shall remove Jesus Christ from my heart or mouth. I regret exceedingly my former errors, and that I once detested his holy name, and came so late to his service.” At length his head was struck off. His name occurs in the ancient Roman and African Calendars. Ruinart 2 and Tillemont 3 refer his martyrdom to the year 286; for Dioclesian, having vanquished Carinus, (who was slain near Murga the year before,) associated Maximian Herculeus in the empire at Nicomedia, on the first of April, 286; after which he took a journey in great state to Rome, where there seems to have been a hot persecution about July, says Tillemont. Fleury places the death of St. Genesius in 303; for Dioclesian went again to Rome to celebrate the twentieth year of the reign of Maximian Herculeus, which was begun in November, 303. At the same time, both the emperors triumphed together over the Persians; after some stay there, Dioclesian returned into the East. See this martyr’s genuine acts in Ruinart, p. 283, and Orsi, t. 3, p. 467.  2
Note 1. The baptism which he received on the stage was no more than a representation of that sacrament, for want of a serious intention of performing the Christian rite; but St. Genesius was baptized in desire, with true contrition, and also in his own blood. [back]
Note 2. Act. Sincer. p. 283. [back]
Note 3. Tillem. t. 4, p. 694. [back]