Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Feast day: May 12
So often we hear people or
even ourselves excuse an action by saying "I was only following orders."
But for Achilleus this excuse could not stand in the face of the cross.
Everything we know from
authority about this first- century martyr comes from a testimony
written by Pope St. Damasus in the fourth century and inscribed on a
memorial tablet that commemorates his life. But even this commentary
comes 300 years after they died.
Damasus tells us that
Achilleus was a soldier in the Roman army where he helped carry out the
persecution of Christians. He probably had nothing against Christians
and didn't care for the bloody slaughter he was commanded to perform,
but he obeyed these cruel orders out of fear of dying himself. After
all, that was what soldiers have always been expected to do.
We are not told how he was
converted, only that it was a "miracle of faith." After this miracle, he
threw down his weapons and escaped from their camp, discarding armor and
arms as he went toward his new life in Christ. As a participant in the
persecution he knew perhaps better than any other Christian what pain
awaited him. Faith, however, had triumphed over fear of death and the
victory of faith was the sweetest he had known.
We are told he was martyred
but Damasus doesn't mention how.
Later legend had it that he
served Flavia Domitilla, the great-niece of Emperor Domitian, and was
exiled and executed with her when she converted. This legend probably
originated in the fact that the martyrs were buried in what was later
known as the cemetery of Domitilla.