Saint Brigid Religious Education
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West Hartford, CT 06110

St. Achilleus

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.

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