June 30th, following the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, we celebrate the early Christian martyrs put to death by Nero after the disastrous fire that burned down much of the city July 19, 64 AD. If I were in Rome today I would go to the church of Saint Peter in Chains or to the gardens of Saints John and Paul on the Celian Hiill to remember them.
The two apostles were put to death around this time and many (we don’t know how many) followed them.
There’s a blog and a video on the church of St. Peter in Chains here and here.And a video on the Stations of the Cross in the gardens of Saints John and Paul here. There’s also a video on the Quo Vadis story here.
The persecution and martyrdom in 64 throws light on the creation of the Gospel of Mark, which many think was written in Rome afterwards.
One thing I think this feast and the Gospel of Mark suggests: the Church of Rome did not flee from the uncertainty and persecution it faced then. I think the Quo Vadis story indicates that. It didn’t give up.
We pray today:
you sanctified the Church of Rome
with the blood of its first martyrs.
May we find strength from their courage
and rejoice in their triumph.
We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son.