In our traditional Latin calendar, this is also called Dominica in Albis or “White-Sunday.” It is also called “Low Sunday.” My podcasts are back after some technical difficulties (which I honestly believe were preternatural, as there was no natural explanation why the last recordings did not work.) In any case, please pray for the protection of my ministries in the parish, at the abortion mill, in the streets and even online. Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!
Really, a better title of this article is “Why to stop confessing pornography badly.” Or: “Why confession without amendment will still lead to the loss of your soul.” People do not realize the danger in confessing pornography without a firm resolution of amendment to totally change their life. That is the purpose of this blog post.
Going to confession within a week (before or after) of Divine Mercy Sunday totally relieves the soul of not only the eternal effects of sin (hell) but also the temporal effects of sin (purgatory.) Jesus said to St. Faustina, “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”—Diary 699
However, one of the requirements for a good confession is “firm resolution of amendment.” Firm resolution of amendment means that you will try to avoid the sin that you just confessed. I’m going to give you five reasons to never fall into pornography again. I write this for men, but some women mind find a loving challenge in my words, too:
1) Confession cleanses the soul but not the memory. Pornography and masturbation are both mortal sins, even when committed exclusively of the other. In fact, lustful thoughts without pornography can be mortal, for Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matthew 5:27. Now add to this the fact that pornography is biochemically burned at each use into the memory section of the brain. Now add into this mix the fact that the Church teaches that confession generally relieves the eternal effects of sin (the soul) but rarely the consequences of the sin (the memory.) Now add into this mix the fact that demonologists and exorcists teach that demons have access to the memory (but demons do not have access to the substance of the soul where the Blessed Trinity resides in someone in sanctifying grace.) Combine all of the above facts of human biology and Church doctrine and this is the stunning outcome: Demons have some access to your memory of past pornography even when you are in sanctifying grace! Do you see why this addiction must be stopped as soon as possible? Accessing those memories (on your own, or with some infernal help) can be a slick road to a mental fall as you picture all the filthy things of your past. St. Francis De Sales teaches that thoughts become mortal sin when “you with full deliberation resolve to take pleasure in such delight.” Do you see why your brain can not take one more insult of filth? You don’t know when the tipping point will be, so do not presume upon confession. Confession will not cleanse your memory, but you can start doing that by making a firm resolution of amendment to never see pornography again. This will be necessary for a clean mind.
2) Pornography releases real-live demons into your home. Consider the quote of Jesus above where he says that simply looking upon a woman with lust is “adultery.” Now consider the fact that exorcists say that there are actually specific demons of adultery. Demons can probably not commit lust (since they have no physical body) but there are demons on specific missions of lust against us humans. Thus, binding yourself to a woman you see in pornography invites those demons into your home. I am not an exorcist, but I do minor-exorcisms in deliverance ministry that has taken me even to India. When I work with young fathers who have addictions and fetishes, I often notice that their children have very strange screaming patterns that almost sound diabolical. I am not saying those kids are possessed, but there are some signs of diabolical obsession in these families where the dad struggles with porn. In any case, I am totally convinced that young fathers who use pornography are bringing demons into their home. How sad that these are the very men who want to protect their family and provide for their home. The end of this article will include new weapons for them to beat this silent killer of family life. As I was writing this article tonight, I texted an exorcist friend on this topic and he wrote me: “All exorcists are consistent on this point: The continuous and unrepentant commission of mortal sins constitutes an increasing danger of demonic obsession (in a body) or infestation (in a place)… The more frequent the consent, the more open the invitation to these demons. The regular habit of viewing porn allows the entry of those unclean spirits into one’s life and home.”
3) Looking at pornography grows the child sex-slavery business even when you’re looking at adults. Here’s why:
The same men often run both industries. Huffington Post quotes “Fight the New Drug” in saying that “when these customers show up [to use prostitutes] many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting—many of which are human trafficking victims controlled by pimps—what they’ll be forced to do…According to FTND CEO Clay Olsen, ‘porn fuels the demand for the sex trade’ in a way often not seen by those who view porn. ‘Traffickers have learned to package their product in a way that disguises the fact that the “performers” are forced to participate,’ said Olsen.” Thus, we must ask the question: Who are these human trafficking victims? In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) funded a study that looked at sex trafficking of minors in the U.S. The victims in this study reported a median age of 15 years old, though some think it may be closer to 13 and others 19.
Think of your fifteen year old daughter being kidnapped and used for movies over the next ten years the next time you think that pornography is “harmless.”
4) “Normal” pornography use fosters a desire for child-porn or violence. There’s actually a science behind this. Dopamine and norepinephrine are powerful pleasure chemicals released in the brain during orgasm. But unlike normal married sex, the immediate and ubiquitous access to pornography allows those chemicals to be released so frequently that an up-regulation of the biochemical receptors happens. That means that when more receptors are made (to “catch” the more frequent floods of bio-chemicals that come at orgasm) more chemicals are similarly required to even reach simple orgasm. The outcome of this up regulation on a biochemical level has one of two earthy outcomes:
A) Total loss of sex drive. Even my most unfavorite magazine, Time Magazine, had this article to show that millions of young men have lost any desire to have sex with real women because of how often they masturbate to fake women.
B) More and more kinky porn. As I wrote, the up-regulation of receptors requires a greater flood of biochemicals to reach orgasm, and the only way to release more chemicals is to get into more shocking and kinky material. Many men get bored with “ordinary” pornography and they slowly wade into the world of child-pornography or violence. This begins with BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sado-Maschism) but it often ends in acting out real violence, often against children. Many serial killers did not think that “innocent” pornography would ever lead them to killing, but many of them admit that the strange attraction to the next higher-high of human interaction and degradation all began with the self-abuse of simple pornography. Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy both say that pornography was their launching point into their serial killing. I have included in this footnote the quotes from fourteen serial killers on how they got their start in pornography: 1
5) St. Thomas Aquinas taught that masturbation is worse than pre-marital sex: “And therefore simple fornication, which is committed without injury to another person, is the least kind of lust.”—Summa Theologica II.II.154.12. St. Thomas is basically saying that although both are mortal sins, masturbation is actually worse than the old fashioned consensual sex behind the barn of two young lovers. Why? Because masturbation is a direct offense against nature and the Creator who gives us the option for life. At least fornication is still open to life. (St. Thomas Aquinas never fathomed that there could be a Pill to kill 500 million tiny individuals every year.) But barring the topic of contraception and abortion, we can say this confidently: Masturbation does more harm to your soul than simply having pre-marital sex. (But abortion is worse than both, and most people who have pre-marital sex are mildly open to abortion. Even without abortion or contraception, God obviously does not want us to do either fornication or masturbation.) This is also why oral sex is worse than normal intercourse. I wish every Catholic high school student in this country could read this single part of my blog post. Many Catholic young adults believe they can receive Holy Communion on that same filthy mouth that did that sick sin as long as they didn’t do the one natural sin of fornication that at least reflects the marital act!
As a subset of number five, I think I should mention that I believe that masturbation is a homosexual act. Many men might think they feel manly by looking at pictures of women and masturbating. But the reality of it is: It’s a man’s hand that is leading a man to ejaculate. I might take some angry comments or emails for this one, but it has to be said: Masturbation may be one reason why so many straight men become gay. Barring the debate on whether one is “born gay,” I think we all know people who thought they were straight for a long time… and then decided they were gay. I very much believe this may be due to a man masturbating himself, since, at the end of the day, it is a homosexual act: A man is doing it to a man or a woman is doing it to a woman. This is probably tied to the above where St. Thomas Aquinas believes masturbation is worse than normal fornication.
So, really this blog post should be this excessively verbose title: Why-you-should-stop-confessing-pornography-and-start-doing-something-to-end-pornography-in-your-life-so-that-you-can-begin-to-actually-make-a-good-confession-again. None of this is for shock value. If you don’t like to read about these things from a priest, well, I don’t really like to blog about them. But not many other people are saying them, and I want to help people in this silent addiction.
Now for the good news…
If you find yourself in a cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, do not lose hope. I am proud of you for getting back up and going to confession. As Scott Hahn says, “The one thing greater than my ability to sin is my heavenly Father’s ability to forgive me.” “It does not matter how many times you fall, only how many times you get back up.”—St. Therese.
The blood of Jesus that covers us in confession is a totally free gift of grace, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. If you keep falling into the cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, it is not God’s grace that is missing in your life! It is your cooperation. And because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” we need thermobaric weapons, not just the pellet guns of three Hail Marys a day for purity.
If you have an addiction to pornography or some other fettish, confess your sins regularly, but I do not think that you will ultimately beat it until you choose one of these spiritual thermobaric weapons:
1) 15-20 decades of the Rosary a day.
2) Fast on bread and water every Wednesday and Friday until you are two months clear of all pornography use (and consider the continuation of the practice to clear your memory of past insults of self-abuse.)
3) Join RECLAIM SEXUAL HEALTH . It is a couple hundred dollars, but many men who could never beat pornography and masturbation even after fasting have found help here. It is a system based on non-condemnation. It is a system based on getting the man to understand the pathophysiology of addiction, especially the chemical addiction of pornography. Finally, each man at the Reclaim Program gets his own personal coach on the phone who comes with total anonymity and secrecy. (In other words, he won’t call your home phone to have your wife find that you have a private coach to get you off pornography!) Reclaim is supported by many American bishops as the best way for men to get off pornography.
Nothing could be greater than the grace imparted to us on Divine Mercy Sunday, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. And if you’re serious about beating the destructive, diabolical sin of pornography, please consider one of the three above “thermobaric” spiritual weapons. If you don’t do it for you, then do it for your family. Their spiritual environment hangs in the balance on your decision to take these things seriously or lightly.
- Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer of Wisconsin, speaking of his routine before hunting for a victim said, “Just…using pictures of past victims…the pornography videos, the magazines…” Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 boys and men.
- Ted Bundy, convicted rapist and mutilation murderer of Washington, said that hard-core pornography had a “crystallizing effect” on his violent tendencies and his acting out during the 1970s.
- Arthur Gary Bishop from Utah, executed for raping and murdering five boys in the 1980s, said pornography’s “effect on me was devastating.”
- Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian serial killer, murdered at least 53 women and children. “…with pictures of naked women in his prison cell, he blamed pornography as the cause of this troubles.”
- Wisconsin resident Ed Gein, the first serial killer, aka The Butcher of Plainfield, and inspiration for movies such as Psycho, Maniac, and The Silence of the Lambs “accumulated a library of anatomy books, porn magazines, horror and adventure novel…” in the 1950s.
- John Wayne Gacy‘s wife filed for divorce in 1976 because “Gacy’s moods had become erratic, and [she] had found Gacy’s pornographic magazine collection which was all centered around young boys.” Gacy killed at least 33 young men and boys in Chicago, Illinois.
- The nickname BTK (bind, torture, kill) was given to Dennis Rader, a Kansas native, who killed 10 people. “He kept meticulous records of his fantasies and crimes in what he called his ‘mother lode’ collection of pornography.”
- David Berkowitz killed over a dozen people in New York. He joined a cult and was introduced to “drug use, sadistic pornography and violent crime.” The cult also created and distributed child pornography.
- Richard Ramirez was exposed to explicit pictures of his cousin “raping Vietnamese women and severing the heads of Vietcong soldiers.” He in turn killed at least 13 people in California.
- Edmund Kemper, a California serial killer and necrophile known as the Co-ed Killer, used pornography and detective magazines for erotic stimulation; he picked up women who were hitch-hiking, then killed, and raped them post-mortem.
- Ottis Toole from Florida became obsessed with gay pornography. He “committed his first murder at the age of 14.” During his killing spree, accompanied by Henry Lee Lucas, he killed 108 people.
- The Grim Sleeper, Lonnie Franklin Jr., “had a penchant for prostitutes and pornography.” A resident of LA, he would pick up prostitutes, take pornographic pictures of his victims, then strangle them to death. His killing spree included 11 murders.
- In the 2013 murder case of Tia Sharp, a 12-year-old girl from the UK, the judge declared to murderer Stuart Hazell, “the records of your internet searching on your mobile phone make abundantly clear that you were looking out for pornographic pictures of pre-teen girls.”
- In 2013, on the day Mark Bridger, a UK native,abducted April Jones, he “viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting…rape.”—https://www.netnanny.com/blog/what-serial-killers-and-murderers-think-about-pornography/ ↩
Tonight’s podcast is from the Traditional Latin Mass for the Supper of the Lord (Cena Domini.) This sermon is about the connection between the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood, and why Jesus transfers His suffering and leadership to His priests. We will see that both the leadership and the suffering of priests are for the life of the world.
Passion Sunday and the Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Mass.
This is a talk I gave to the North Shore Latin Mass Society. It considers the historical, mystical and theological perspectives of the five sorrows of the Rosary.
This sermon is from my 8am Laetare low Mass. However, between the low Mass and the 10am Sung Mass, I was attacked by ants while talking to a parishioner outside our mission chapel! Separated by a few seconds of music on this podcast, I decided to also post that short 10am sermon. Thus, the last five minutes of this podcast is an improv sermon about the ants, but it ties especially into today’s readings and the most Holy Eucharist.
This homily is about how science and religion meet in the Feast of the Annunciation. I reference “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation,” in this homily. It was written by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1987 and it is found on the Vatican Website here.
I’m going to write on five surprising things of St. Joseph in celebration of his feast day today.
1) St. Joseph was probably born without original sin. I know this one sounds heretical, but follow me here. A nun in Ohio received private revelations from Mary and Joseph in 1956, all of which were approved by Cardinal Burke in his letter to the USCCB in 1997. These apparitions are known as “Our Lady of America.” St. Joseph said the following about himself in this apparition: “It is true, my daughter, that immediately after my conception I was, through the future merits of Jesus and because of my exceptional role of future Virgin-Father, cleansed from the stain of original sin. I was, from that moment, confirmed in grace and never had the slightest stain on my soul. This is my unique privilege among men. My pure heart also was from the first moment of existence inflamed with love for God.” Mary was conceived without original sin. Joseph was conceived with original sin. However, if this apparition is true (and I believe it is) then immediately after his conception, Joseph was cleansed by God via the merits of Jesus on the cross applied retroactively. Thus, Jesus is still the Divine Savior of His foster-father, Joseph. Many ancient saints, popes, doctors and theologians of the Church have firmly believed that St. Joseph never committed an actual sin—neither mortal, nor even venial. This theological assertion does not empty the cross of its power, but rather reveals the omnipotence of God to apply the merits of the Redemption as He sees fit, even outside of time. Again, Jesus still saved Joseph from sin. (But this one probably deflates the old joke of Joseph getting blamed for everything in the breakfast-nook by the rest of the Holy Family.)
2) St. Joseph, betrothed to Mary, was a young-virgin himself. Although not defined, this is the teaching of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. Combine this with the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, and the outcome is that St. Joseph is still a virgin in heaven. This sheds light on the hidden life of Nazareth, namely, that it took great virtue—not old age—to live in celibacy with the most beautiful woman ever created. This also means that Jesus was the only child that Joseph ever raised. Imagine this father teaching his son the Hebrew Scriptures late at night in his workshop. The angels themselves could not have made greater praise than these deep but tender, joyful whispers of the Psalms coming from a carpenter’s workshop day and night. (For Scriptural clarity on the identity of the mother of those relatives of Jesus always debated to be either His “brothers” versus His “cousins,” you can decide for yourself by reading Matt 27:55-56. It’s the entire Scriptural key to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity.)
3) St. Joseph was probably taken body-and-soul into heaven at his death. Have you ever seen a first class relic of St. Joseph? Me neither. St. Francis De Sales, a doctor of the Church, considers it definite that St. Joseph was taken body-and-soul into heaven at his death. Many such saints look to Gen 50:25 as a prophesy. Common sense dictates: Would God let his own foster father rot in the ground until His second coming? Indeed, we know that although Mary’s Assumption was unique, Mary was not the only one taken body-and-soul into heaven for a preemptive resurrection of the body. (See Gen 5:24, 2 Kings2:11 and Matt 27:53.) That St. Joseph should be among this small party of bodies in heaven is easy to believe when you consider that St. Joseph has been defined doctrinally by the magisterium as the second greatest saint. (See the writings by Pope Leo XIII.) I would have thought that the runner up to Mary would have gone to, say, St. Paul or St. Catherine of Siena. Nope. St. Joseph is the second greatest saint, even higher than the angels in glory. A simple carpenter! In fact, St. Teresa of Ávila says of St. Joseph: “I do not remember that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant.” Remember this when you pray for—and with—the dying. Since St. Joseph died with Jesus and Mary at his side, he is considered the patron of a good death. My experience is that his intercession is almost immediate.
4) St. Joseph is the head of the Holy Family. This seems obvious, but think about it: St. Joseph is #3 in holiness in his family, but he is #1 in the authority of his family. Right here we have the whole Catholic answer to the issue of women’s ordination, the role of the father as the spiritual leader of the family and even the necessity of complementary roles played by two different genders in the family. Why? Because the Holy Family reveals to post-moderns that roles themselves do not imply superiority; roles prove natural law. (Natural Law is the universal law of family and morality already stamped into the heart of human beings found in any culture.) One day, we Americans may learn that the equality of dignity enjoyed by man and woman is not the same as a bland, interchangeable sameness of family members. How boring. Rather, real roles provide beauty when they are lived without chauvinism or manipulation. Mary was holier than Joseph, but that didn’t stop her from being obedient to him. In fact, Jesus—the Divine Word of the Universe—was obedient to both of them (Luke 2:51.) So, what was Joseph’s role, anyway? That of every man: To protect, guard, provide, teach, guide and love. When a woman lets a man do this, it’s not conveying inferiority. It’s letting him live the fullness of his own masculine love for his family.
5) St. Joseph is the Return of the King. If you look at St. Joseph’s genealogy in the Gospel of St. Matthew, you will see that Joseph had to be the hidden king of Israel by being a direct descendent of King David. Why didn’t anyone know it? Because David’s royalty had to go underground to give way to a corrupt Hebrew theocracy in cahoots with Greek invaders. (For more, see the Old Testament’s 1 and 2 Maccabees, aka the Jewish Braveheart…Yes, some poor Protestans took out the most exciting book in the Bible because Luther didn’t like the Purgatory reference in 2 Macc 12:39-42.) Anyway, follow closely for one more minute: St. Joseph was “King of Israel.” This is proved right there in Matt 1:6-16. He is in the direct bloodline of King David! Read it if you think that that is a title that belongs only to Jesus. In fact, Jesus being the supposed-son of the king may have been a cruel but prophetic twist on the head-placard written by Pontius Pilate at Jesus’ crucifixion: HIC EST IESUS, REX IUDAEORUM—Matt 27:37. Of course, Jesus goes beyond Joseph as the prophesied everlasting King of Israel (2 Sam 7:12-13) since Jesus is God. If you’ve read any Scott Hahn, you know that the queen of a Jewish king was not his wife, but rather His mother (1 Kings 2:19.) Thus, if Jesus is king, then the queen of Israel is clearly Mary. Put it all together and this means: For different reasons, Mary and Joseph are both hidden royalty! The royal duty of Joseph was to guard and protect his queen, Mary. But it doesn’t end there. His duty of guarding this queen was the cameo of his longer vocation to protect the Catholic Church by his intercession in heaven. Is this a pious but random connection? No. The Church’s theology is that Mary lived as the exemplar (supreme goal and example) of the Church. This means that everything St. Joseph did once for her on earth, he would do now for the Church from his spot in heaven. Now it is easy to understand why St. Joseph’s current role is to guard and protect the Church in her pilgrim state of danger here on earth. He is summoned to protect her from both theological error and real demons. We need to call on him now more than ever in this time of nearly unprecedented confusion within the Church and diabolical attack within the family (the domestic Church.) “St. Joseph, terror of demons” is ready to help us pray and act and teach as men.
Lastly…I’ve traveled to missions and parishes on five continents during the past three years and I would argue that it is mostly in Western nations where people consider religion to be a “woman thing.” Not so in the Middle East, in India, in Africa. God is for both genders. Consider the witness of the 21 Egyptian Christian martyrs whose heads were sawed off with knives last month while they were still alive. (This is not “beheading” as the media erroneously calls it. “Beheading” was something merciful that Herod did to John the Baptist.) Did you know that these 21 were not ultra-religious Copts hand-picked by ISIS for torture? They were ordinary Christian men. Did you know every one of them was given the chance to verbally deny Jesus and then accept Islam? These normal fathers and husbands submitted to a gory death on the shores of Libya instead of denying our dear Savior, Jesus Christ. Beshir Kamel, a brother of two of the martyrs, later said that his brothers and friends were “a badge of honor to Christianity…ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith.” Yes, this was the year 2015. Perhaps it is no coincidence that both Josephs of the Bible have blessed the sands of Egypt by their courageous and manly witness when compromise could have “saved” them. St. Joseph, genetically so close to these modern heroes and martyrs of Libya/Egypt, pray for similar men to be raised up in the Church of the Americas.
—I originally wrote this article for Those Catholic Men.
On the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion and Divine Providence.
Today is the Memorial of the 40 Roman Soldiers who banded together in modern day Armenia, refusing to renounce Christ. St. Basil writes of their glorious and manly martyrdom:
These holy martyrs suffered at Sebaste, in the Lesser Armenia, under the Emperor Licinius, in 320. They were of different countries, but enrolled in the same troop; all in the flower of their age, comely, brave, and robust, and were become considerable for their services. St. Gregory of Nyssa and Procopius say they were of the Thundering Legion, so famous under Marcus Aurelius for the miraculous rain and victory obtained by their prayers. This was the twelfth legion, and then quartered in Armenia. Lysias was duke or general of the forces, and Agricola the governor of the province. The latter having signified to the army the orders of the emperor Licinius for all to sacrifice [to false gods], these forty went boldly up to him, and said they were Christians, and that no torments should make them ever abandon their holy religion. The judge first endeavoured to gain them by mild usage; as by representing to them the dishonour that would attend their refusal to do what was required, and by making them large promises of preferment and high favour with the emperor in case of compliance. Finding these methods of gentleness ineffectual, he had recourse to threats, and these the most terrifying, if they continued disobedient to the emperor’s order, but all in vain. To his promises they answered that he could give them nothing equal to what he would deprive them of; and to his threats, that his power only extended over their bodies which they had learned to despise when their souls were at stake. The governor, finding them all resolute, caused them to be torn with whips, and their sides to be rent with iron hooks; after which they were loaded with chains, and committed to jail.
After some days, Lysias, their general, coming from Caesarea to Sebaste, they were re-examined, and no less generously rejected the large promises made them than they despised the torments they were threatened with. The governor, highly offended at their courage, and that liberty of speech with which they accosted him, devised an extraordinary kind of death, which, being slow and severe, he hoped would shake their constancy. The cold in Armenia is very sharp, especially in March, and towards the end of winter, when the wind is north, as it then was, it being also at that time a severe frost. Under the walls of the town stood a pond, which was frozen so hard that it would bear walking upon with safety. The judge ordered the saints to be exposed quite naked on the ice; and in order to tempt them the more powerfully to renounce their faith, a warm bath was prepared at a small distance from the frozen pond, for any of this company to go to who were disposed to purchase their temporal ease and safety on that condition.
The martyrs, on hearing their sentence, ran joyfully to the place, and without waiting to be stripped, undressed themselves, encouraging one another in the same manner as is usual among soldiers in military expeditions attended with hardships and dangers, saying that one bad night would purchase them a happy eternity. They also made this their joint prayer: “Lord, we are forty who are engaged in this combat; grant that we may be forty crowned, and that not one be wanting to this sacred number.” The guards in the mean time ceased not to persuade them to sacrifice [to false gods], that by so doing they might be allowed to pass to the warm bath. But though it is not easy to form a just idea of the bitter pain they must have undergone, of the whole number only one had the misfortune to be overcome; who, losing courage, went off from the pond to seek the relief in readiness for such as were disposed to renounce their faith; but as the devil usually deceives his adorers, the apostate no sooner entered the warm water but he expired. This misfortune afflicted the martyrs; but they were quickly comforted by seeing his place and their number miraculously filled up. A sentinel was warming himself near the bath, having been posted there to observe if any of the martyrs were inclined to submit. While he was attending, he had a vision of blessed spirits descending from heaven on the martyrs, and distributing, as from their king, rich presents and precious garments; St. Ephrem adds crowns to all these generous soldiers, one only excepted, who was their faint-hearted companion already mentioned. The guard, being struck with the celestial vision and the apostate’s desertion, was converted upon it; and by a particular motion of the Holy Ghost, threw off his clothes, and placed himself in his stead amongst the thirty-nine martyrs. Thus God heard their request, though in another manner than they imagined: “Which ought to make us adore the impenetrable secrets of his mercy and justice,” says St. Ephrem, “in this instance, no less than in the reprobation of Judas and the election of St. Matthias.”
In the morning the judge ordered both those that were dead with the cold, and those that were still alive, to be laid on carriages, and cast into a fire. When the rest were thrown into a waggon to be carried to the pile, the youngest of them (whom the acts call Melito) was found alive; and the executioners, hoping he would change his resolution when he came to himself, left him behind. His mother, a woman of mean condition, and a widow, but rich in faith and worthy to have a son a martyr, observing this false compassion, reproached the executioners; and when she came up to her son, whom she found quite frozen, not able to stir, and scarce breathing, he looked on her with languishing eyes, and made a little sign with his weak hand to comfort her. She exhorted him to persevere to the end, and, fortified by the Holy Ghost, took him up, and put him with her own hands into the waggon with the rest of the martyrs, not only without shedding a tear, but with a countenance full of joy, saying courageously: “Go, go, son, proceed to the end of this happy journey with thy companions, that thou mayest not be the last of them that shall present themselves before God.” Nothing can be more inflamed or more [moving] than the discourse which St. Ephrem puts into her mouth, by which he expresses her contempt of life and all earthly things, and her ardent love and desire of eternal life. This holy father earnestly entreats her to conjure this whole troop of martyrs to join in imploring the divine mercy in favour of his sinful soul. Their bodies were burned, and their ashes thrown into the river; but the Christians secretly carried off or purchased part of them with money. Some of these precious relics were kept in Caesarea, and St. Basil says of them: “Like bulwarks, they are our protection against the inroads of enemies.”