Ordinary Time: August 18th
Thursday of the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time
Old Calendar: St. Agapitus, martyr; St. Helena, widow
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Agapitus, a martyr of Palestrina, not far from Rome. His cult, which is very ancient, was particularly popular in the eternal city where Felix III (492) caused a church to be built in his honor. Ancient inscriptions show clearly the great confidence placed in the intercession of this martyr. It is also the feast of St. Helena, empress and mother of Constantine the Great. She discovered the True Cross in a rock-cistern near Mt. Calvary.
The Office offers these legendary details: "Agapitus was only fifteen years old but already his heart was all aglow with the desire to die as a martyr. Upon orders from the Emperor Aurelian (ca. 257), he was mercilessly whipped with leaded scourges, then thrown into a vile basement to remain there four days without food. After further punishment under the lash, he was suspended head downwards over a smoldering fire so that he should die from the smoke; boiling water was dashed against him, and his jaws were battered. When wild beasts hesitated to harm him, he was beheaded with the sword."
- A boy of fifteen years a full-fledged hero! Has he any lesson for modern youth? Of you Christ is not demanding such suffering, neither blood nor death. But He is demanding a will that can say NO to the allurements of sin, a will that can bend itself humbly in obedience. In this you have opportunity to be a youthful hero.
It was the pious boast of the city of Colchester, England, for many ages, that St. Helena was born within its walls; and though this honor has been disputed, it is certain that she was a British princess. She embraced Christianity late in life; but her incomparable faith and piety greatly influenced her son Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and served to kindle a holy zeal in the hearts of the Roman people. Forgetful of her high dignity, she delighted to assist at the Divine Office amid the poor; and by her alms-deeds showed herself a mother to the indigent and distressed.