Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflection on Saints Sergius & Bacchus

Feast of Saints Sergius & Bacchus October 7, 2011

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus / Franciscans of Divine Mercy

On October 7th we celebrate the feast of Saints Sergius & Bacchus, the patron Saints of this ministry so I decided to tell you more about the Saints and why the mission was founded since so many have never heard of the saints.

Our mission here in Franklin Massachusetts was founded to serve all those in the New England area and through the internet who have felt rejected and alienated because of their sexual orientation or divorce with the message of God‘s infinite mercy and love for ALL His children.

As for who Saints Sergius & Bacchus were the answer is a couple of men who were Christian soldiers in the Roman army and in a loving committed blessed Holy Union ( Marriage) in accord with the traditions of the Catholic Church at that time in history.

Most people never heard of them because they do not fit the current church’s political positions although they have feast days in both the Roman and Eastern churches especially the Orthodox churches but in the Roman church their feast was replaced with a feast day honoring Our Lady of the Rosary.

I have a very strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother under all of her titles and I also believe that the Rosary is a powerful prayer mantra that should be prayed often but I also believe that knowledge of the lives of all the saints and their feast days needs to be known because the saints can offer us hope and example on how to live our lives.

Even though I had read the LIVES OF THE SAINTS from cover to cover through more than 60 years of religious education and work in the church I had never heard of Saints Sergius & Bacchus until I came across their Icon while on a retreat at the Benedictine monastery in Vermont. I was there trying to perceive how and under who’s patronage I would establish a ministry to the GLBT community since none of the Roman churches in the area wanted any part of that kind of ministry. While perusing the gift shop I noticed the Icon of two male saints in an embrace and wondered who they were. When I turned the Icon over and read the history of Saints Sergius and Bacchus I was totally surprised and immediately knew that God had sent me to find them.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus were attached to the household of the Emperor Maximilian. They were Christians and lovers. Yes you read that correctly.

It was not for their sexuality these young men were canonized. It was for their faith -- one of history's most poignant ironies, given the church's unflinching campaign against gay love.

They, by the way, are not the only saints who had committed same sex relationships there are others like Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus and we all know of King David’s love for Jonathan as described in the book of Psalms which is attributed to having been written by King David. There are many other couples who are saints, both male and female, who historical records indicate were in committed blessed relationships.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus were ordered to enter the Temple of Jupiter to participate in a sacrificial ceremony to the god, they refused. For this act of defiance, the lovers were stripped of their arms and badges of rank, dressed in women's clothing and led through the streets of Arabissus (near Comana in Cappadocia) which, for a Roman soldier, was abject humiliation. Then they were sent to Resapha in Syria (Augusta Euphratesiae in Mesopotamia), where they were tortured. Bacchus was whipped until his flesh was raw and he died October 1st AD290, confessing his faith in Christ

Sergius's faith faltered with the death of his lover, but was reinforced when Bacchus appeared to him in a vision saying, "I am still with you in the bond of our union." Sergius kept the faith and after a great deal more of torture, he was beheaded on October 7 AD290. Like his lover, he died a martyr for the love of Christ.

The tomb of S. Sergius at Resapha become a famous shrine and was honored by great gatherings of Christians because of the frequent miracles there.

Sergius and Bacchus became the heavenly protectors of the Byzantine army, with the two Theodores, Demetrius, Procopius and George.

Their "acts" are preserved in Latin, Greek and Syria.

In AD431, Bishop Alexander of Hierapolis built a magnificent church in Sergius’s honor.

In 434, the town of Resapha was raised to the rank of an episcopal see, was named Sergiopolis, and soon became one of the greatest pilgrimage centers of the East. Many churches in many towns bore the name of Sergius (sometimes with Bacchus) and in the seventh century, a church was dedicated to them in Rome.

There have been two popes named after Saint Sergius.

During the middle Ages, the relationship of Sergius and Bacchus was considered an exemplar of compassionate union, and possibly even marriage, based on agape (brotherly love) and mutual respect.

In the East, Sergius and Bacchus were universally honored.

Since the seventh century they have had a celebrated church in Rome. Christian Art represents the two saints as soldiers in military garb with branches of palm in their hands.

I strongly recommend that all who love Christ and believe that he is our savior and redeemer take it upon themselves to read the many histories of the church, not just the Roman version, but the versions preceding the establishment of Rome as the “central” seat of the church.

What we now call the Eastern Orthodox churches were all, except for Russia, established before Rome and their historical records are more intact and open than those of Rome.

I am ending this brief history lesson with a prayer I wrote in honor of the patron saints of our ministry.

Prayer To Saints Sergius & Bacchus

© Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD,

Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Almighty and merciful God, Your Holy Martyrs, Sergius and Bacchus loved each other and You with such complete abandon that they were pleased to suffer torments and give their earthly lives rather than deny you.

They were subjected to disgrace, humiliation and ridicule in an attempt to embarrass and discredit them and force them to renounce you, O Lord.

Their love for each other and You, O Lord, sentenced them to earthly degradation and loss of their earthly lives but gained for them eternal live and glory with you.

I pray that they will intercede on my behalf to you, O Blessed Lord, and plead my case so that I may join them and all the saints, when my days here on earth are over, giving endless praise honor and glory to You Almighty God and father now and forever. Amen

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