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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Martyrdom of St. Philonedes

The Catholic Church has always been careful to make a clear distinction between suicide and martyrdom, upholding the latter as a "baptism of blood" and condemning the former as a mortal sin.  However, just as today suicide bombers claim for themselves the glory of martyrdom, in past times the line was often blurred by Christians as to what constituted martyrdom and to what degree the amount of provocation they elicited from the Romans constituted suicide.  Adherents of the Montanist heresy, which prided itself on being the "Church of the Martyrs" were known to leap from buildings to their death rather than lose their virginity at the hands of their captors in prison, after going out of their way to make it known to the authorities that they were Christian.  Traditionally this would have been considered suicide in the Catholic Church.  However, the case of St. Philonedes, a Catholic saint, gives one pause to reconsider where the difference actually lies.  The Church, at any rate, has been generous in assuming the best of one's intentions.  From

Saint Philonides was bishop of Curium during the early Christian years. In the Synaxarium of Constantinople his memory is celebrated on August 30. It states that Philonides, bishop of Curium found martyrdom during the reign of emperor Diocletian, at the beginning of the fourth century. He found martyrdom along with three other Christians, Aristoklis, Dimitrianos and Athanasios.
In the Synaxarium of Nicodemus it is also stated that Philonides, bishop of Curium, found a martyr's death, but his memory is indicated as been celebrated on June 17 and not the 30th of August.
In the Synaxarium of Nicodemus it is stated that Philonides chose death, when informed of the killing of the other three martyrs and learned that the Gentiles had been ordered to attack the Christians in obscene ways, such as rape. In order to avoid this shame he went to a cliff, prayed, and jumped into the empty space, setting his own life into an end. Shortly after his death, according again to the same Synaxarium, the saint appeared as a vision to two travelers, naked, bathed in perfume, holding a palm branch and having a crown on his head. The vision led the two men to the spot where the dead body of the saint was lying. However, the Gentiles took the saint's body and threw into the sea in order to disappear. But the sea washed the corpse on the shore from where eventually the Christians took it and buried it with honors.
Philonides is the first known bishop of Curium (late third and early fourth century). His death is placed in the period between 303 -305.

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