According to the ancient Acts, St Genesius was beheaded on this day for the sake of Jesus Christ who he proclaimed from the stage in the presence of the emperor. We are told that "he won the crown of martyrdom". In human terms we rarely think of suffering as a glory, as something which earns a crown. In the midst of pain, alienation, mental anguish perhaps, there us little, it seems, to suggest any vision of glory. There are reasons for this.
First, as in all things, we live and move in this life by means of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ - faith is a darkness, a darkness which leads to a greater light, as St John of the Cross teaches us. In embracing the cross of suffering, even martyrdom, the victim relies upon faith, and in this faith they are justified, comforted and brought to glory.
Then, there is also love. The martyr accepts death because he believes, but more - because he loves, and in the midst of the darkness this love is purified and made perfect as St Therese teaches us through her experience and teachings: the love of the martyr is a perfect love.
Thirdly, the martyr truly embraces the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and Christ embraced his passion and death in the midst of darkness, as he himself tells us from the cross when he cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" But Christ entered this darkness so as to bring us to into the light - to make a way for the faithful to come to the vision of God. The martyr imitates Christ in this, they embrace the darkness of martyrdom so those who look upon them and learn from them may see the light of truth and love. This is why, as Tertullian tells us, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church". We can understand the martyr's death, then, to be a sacrifice offered to God for the sake of the Church, one united to, and a participation in the sacrifice of Christ from which the martyr's sacrifice receives its power, effect and significance.
And in the end, there is glory, the crown of martyrdom, a sharing in the beatific vision and the eternal life of the Crucified and Risen Christ. And so the prayers of the martyrs are powerful, we can entrust our needs to them and see in the profession of faith, their witness, an example for us, a model for our daily lives where we may need to lay down our lives for Christ in many ways. And, for those who live this "daily martyrdom", the martyrdom of the trials of life, with great fidelity, there is also a crown. May St Genesius assist us as we seek to win this crown, not for our sake, but for Christ's.
Novena Prayer. Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory be.
St Genesius, pray for us.