Today many parts of the church remember a duo of 4th Century saints, a mother and son: Saint Cyricus and Saint Julitta, Family of Fortitude.
Saint Julitta was of noble birth, living in Asia Minor. During the persecution of Christians during Diocletian, she is said to have fled to Tarsus with her young son, Cyricus. To avoid detection, she hid her noble status, and tried to pass as a typical citizen, but having been widowed early on in her life, had little protection in the eyes of the law. As she fled, Saint Julitta was captured by the governor of Tarsus, along with her child, and tortured and interrogated until she admitted she was a follower of The Way. Her son was said to have called for his mother even as she was being hurt by the system that sought their demise.
Legend has it that St. Cyricus, when grabbed by the murderous governor, scratched his face and screamed. They both were reportedly martyred for the faith, victims of state-sanctioned violence against the vulnerable.
So, here’s the thing Beloved: I make note of these two saints of the faith, obscure as they are, because I believe we are still witnesses to state-sanctioned violence against the vulnerable and the weak.
Saint Cyricus is a patron saint of children, one we need to lift up in these days where schools are still shot up. Saint Julitta is the patron saint of single mothers and, unfortunately, is the unwitting saint of mothers whose children are victims of state-sanctioned violence.
Black and Brown citizens are gunned down shopping for their daily bread, just weeks ago. Babies were killed learning their ABC’s, just weeks ago. And lest we think this happens occasionally: gun violence happens every day in this country.
A unique occurrence here in America. Perhaps this is “American exceptionalism” at it’s most raw.
And it’s not like other nations do not have mental health crises. They do. What’s the difference?
Access to assault weapons.
Saint Julitta and Saint Cyricus are reminders for me, and should be for the whole church, that the state is absolutely willing to put up with violence, especially at the expense of the weakest amongst us.
But the church? The church cannot be willing to put up with it…and neither should the larger citizenry.
Let those with ears to hear, hear.
-historical bits gleaned from publicly available sources and from Judika’s Daily Magic.
-icon written in the traditional Greek Orthodox style