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A Little Unknown Monk, Telemachus

Sunday, December 6, 2009

 

Telemachus was a monk who lived in Asia Minor about the year 400 AD. During his life time gladiatorial games were very popular in Rome. The gladiators were often slaves or political prisoners who were condemned to fight each other unto death for the amusement of the spectators. The sight of blood and gore on the arena floor fascinated people. Telemachus was very disturbed that the Emperor Honorius (who was a Christian) sponsored the games and that many people who called themselves ‘Christian’ went to see them. What, he wondered, could be further from the Spirit of Christ than the cruelty of these gladiatorial games? The bishops and priests spoke against them, but most people were deaf to their message. Telemachus realized that talking about this evil was not enough. But what could he accomplish – one lone monk against the whole Roman Empire? He had no power and the games had been part an established part of Roman life.

One day in prayer, Telemachus sensed that the Holy Spirit was encouraging him to leave his community and go to Rome ~ which at that time was the metropolis at the centre of the greatest empire the world had ever known. When Telemachus arrived in Rome he was caught up into a celebration of a recent victory by the Roman Legions over the Goths. As a part of a holiday festival a circus was being staged for the jubilant multitudes. Telemachus didn’t know exactly where he was going in Rome… but he allowed himself to be swept along by the crowds. He soon found himself on the way to the Coliseum for the circus.

When the crowds arrived at the Coliseum they began to get excited by the sounds of the lions roaring their challenge and the gladiators preparing for combat. Telemachus followed the crowd into the Coliseum. There to his horror he was confronted with callous gut-wrenching carnage. Gladiators fought one another to the death. They slaughtered their hapless foes without pity as entertainment for the bloodthirsty crowds.

Telemachus felt he had to do something. He simply couldn’t stand by while human beings were being beheaded, disemboweled and dismembered before his very eyes. He ran down the steps of the stands, leapt into the arena, and began darting back and forth between the fighters crying: Stop, Stop, in the name of Christ I beg you to stop!.’

When the crowd saw the scrawny figure of the monk running frantically about the arena, ducking and weaving between the combatants – they took Telemachus to be a bit of welcome comic relief and roared their approval. But as time went on some of the people in the crowd began to hear what ‘the mad monk’ was saying and more and they came to realize that Telemachus was actually trying to spoil their bloody fun. Then they turned against him, hissing and booing, and bellowing at the top of their voices for his quick dispatch.

The gladiators lunged at the monk with thrusts of their swords… and the audience buried him under a hailstorm of projectiles and stones. When the furore was over Telemachus lay dead in the middle of the arena.

During the silence that followed his death – it was as if the monk’s last cry began to echo around the arena: ‘Stop, Stop, in the name of Christ I beg you to stop!.’

Telemachus died – but not in vain. His work was accomplished the moment he was struck down. The shock of his death changed the hearts of the crowd. Then they saw the hideous aspects of this vice to which they had surrendered themselves. Emperor Honorius issued an edict that day – forbidding all future gladiatorial games. 

          From Fox’s Book of Martyrs

Posted via email from Dei Gratia Rex

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