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Catholics Must Learn the Phrase: 'Christianus sum! I am a Christian!'

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
July 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If Cardinal George is right that he will die in his bed, his successor in jail, and his successor a martyr--and it is certainly plausible, even likely, from the way the straw blows in the wind--then Catholics better get used to saying in response to our secular liberal interlocutors, "Christianus sum!" and "Christiana sum!" 

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - During the Roman persecution of the nascent Christian Church, to proclaim oneself a Christian was to invite the wrath of public authority, persecution, torture, even martyrdom. 

Even in the face of a hostile government, Christians saw their loyalties to Christ and his Church as being above everything else.  Being Christian was more important than attachment to the Roman empire, to their tribe, to their family, to their occupation. 

Being Christian was their essence, everything else was secondary.

Christian was who and what they were, not something added on to who and what they were.  It was their fundamental identity to which they had to be faithful.  So attached were they to Jesus that to deny Jesus would be equivalent to denying who and what they were.

As Tertullian chastised the pagan rulers in his Apology, by saying Christianus sum! the Christian was telling them what he was.  But the pagan rulers did not want to hear this, instead they wanted to hear what the Christian was not.

Christianus sum! men would answer.  Christiana sum! women would answer.  I am a Christian! was the answer given to the Pagan judges or interlocutors.  It is all over the early Church records.

For example, in the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, Polycarp answered his interlocutors: Christianus sum!

In the Letter of Lyons and Vienne to the churches in Asia and Phrygia which describe the bloody and vicious persecution of Christians where more than 20,000 lost their lives, there is an account of a certain Deacon Sanctus was asked to identify his name, his city, his tribe, his profession, to which he only answered Christianus sum!  This was his only identifying badge, as he suffered the most horrendous tortures.

In the account of the Scillitan Martyrs, a certain Speratus was asked by the Roman proconsul Saturninus if he wishes to persevere as a Christian and suffer to death, to which Speratus responds: Christianus sum!  His female companion Vestia answers similarly: Christiana sum! 

Tertullian recounts an event where a Roman soldier refused to wear the laurel crown, which would have implicitly recognized the divinity of the Roman emperor.  When questioned why he refused, he answered that he could not because he was a Christian.  Non facio.  Christianus sum!  I cannot.  I am a Christian.

In the Epistle of St. Clement, the martyrdom of St. Lawrence is related.  Non interrogatus coepit clamare, Christianus sum.  Without even being questioned, he began to cry out: I am a Christian!

In the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, the martyress Perpetua (who is included in the Roman Canon) says two phrases in response to the demand that she sacrifice to the emperor.  Non facio.  I cannot.  Christiana sum.  I am a Christian.

In the Acts of Cyprian, we learn about how Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, was brought before the Proconsul Aspasius Paternus, and in response, he answered, Christianus sum, et Episcopus.  I am a Christian, and bishop.

In the Martyrdom of Fructuous, bishop of Tarragona, it is related how Fructuosus defends himself against Aemilianus the governor with Christanus sum! 

There is an account of the martyrdom of one Maximilian in Africa in 298 who was haled before the Roman Magistrate who demanded why he refused military service:  No facio.  Non possum miltare.  Christianus sum.  I cannot do it.  I cannot be a soldier.  I am a Christian.

It is important to recall these ancient histories.  As the governments of Western secular liberal democracies have invested in their anti-life and morally relativistic political philosophies and have become neo-pagan, they have become more emboldened than ever and more hostile against Christians.  The spirit of anti-Christ is rising again.

So we see Christians and Christian institutions--most especially Catholic institutions--encountering social and legal pressures that affect their ability to practice their religion: no, to be Christian.

Currently, we are seeing the pressures on religious liberty on such policies as requiring the public funding of the intrinsic evils of artificial contraception, in vitro fertilization, abortion, and euthanasia.  We see the slow compulsion, by force of law, that homosexual sex or same sex "marriage" should be taught as normal, and any expressed resistance against that position as bigoted.

The natural moral law no longer means anything.  Reasonable discourse is no longer possible.  Any and every moral discussion has become intractable. 
 
We see demands (by what right?!) by public officials and the liberal media that faith ought not to be part of the public square, and that Catholics must abide by the false, immoral, and frankly unconstitutional view of strict "wall of separation of Church and State," which, in today's parlance means the State holds the trump card, can define the "public square" (which it defines every more broadly), and can elbow out all competitors by force of law, even, we may be sure, to the point of violence.

As Pope Francis recently pointed out in his encyclical Lumen Fidei, without faith, there will be no recovery of public reason, of the natural moral law. 

Foreseeing the rise in neo-pagan demands and its inexorable consequence to public life, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago famously stated: "I expect to die in my bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."

If Cardinal George is right--and it is certainly plausible, even likely, from the way the straw blows in the wind--then Catholics better get used to saying in response to our secular liberal interlocutors, "Christianus sum!" and "Christiana sum!" 

I am a Christian!  It is who and what I am. 

And it will be who and what I am whatever you may do to me, whatsoever you call me, fine me, incarcerate me, howsoever you mock me.

We will have the consolation that we join in the canon of martyrdom uttered by the likes of Sts Polycarp, Sanctus, Speratus, Lawrence, Perpetua, Cyprian, Fructuosus, and Maximillian and hundreds of thousands, even millions more.

We may also be consoled in the age old law framed by Tertullian in his Apology:  The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.  Sanguis martyrum semen Christianorum.

It worked once.  It will work again.

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Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

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