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St. Victor of Marseille – July 21

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

Victor, a Catholic officer of the Roman army known for his noble lineage, military valor, and intelligence, served in the garrison of Marseille around the year 290. He developed a strong apostolate with his fellow men of arms and the people of the city, stimulating them all to courageously face the persecution of those times.

A seal featuring St. Victor defeating a dragon in battle

Seal from the Abbey of St. Victor in Marseille in homage of its patron saint fighting idolatry

His activity was discovered by enemies of the Faith and Victor was denounced to the Emperor. He was brought before two prefects in the city, who, because of his distinction, sent him to the Emperor himself. The tyrant imposed cruel torments on him in an attempt to make him deny the Catholic Faith. All those tortures were futile because Victor remained faithful. After being tortured, he was thrown in a prison, and there he converted the three soldiers who were guarding him. When the Emperor heard this, he ordered that Victor be taken to a pagan temple to burn incense to the false idol, Jupiter. Victor went up to the altar and kicked the statue to the ground.

Indignant, the Emperor order that Victor’s foot be chopped off and then his body crushed by a millstone. When the mill broke down, he ordered Victor beheaded. In the cave where his remains were conserved, many miracles took place. His relics were kept for centuries in the Abbey of Saint Victor in Marseille. The French Revolution tried to destroy them, but they were preserved and today are in the Church of St. Nicolas of Chardonnay in Paris.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

It would be very interesting if someone would have the time to study how far-reaching the Catholic influence in the Roman army was. The courage of the Roman army was legendary, and under many titles the Roman legionary was the symbol of courage in the popular imagination. History provides ample support for this idea.

Generally speaking, we know that the Catholic Faith deeply penetrated the Roman army, because many of its members died martyrs. Hence, we see that from the beginning of the Catholic Church, the military life and spirit were allied with the Catholic spirit and sanctity.

Further, we see that the courage required of a legionary acted as a kind of preparation for him to accept the Catholic Religion, the source of all good and everything worthy of praise throughout the world.

Just as the Church adopted Roman Law, elevated it, purified its many defects and made it the base of Canon Law, in the same way the Catholic Religion broadly penetrated the Roman Patriciate, whose noble families were prepared by the patriarchal spirit to receive the Catholic Church. Thus, we can justly ask whether this Catholic influence also penetrated the Roman Legions. The martyrdom of St. Victor allows us to raise this possibility.

A Roman painting of Emperor Maximiam burning incense to Jupiter

Emperor Maximian burning incense to Jupiter

The scene of his martyrdom could not be more beautiful. He was brought before an idol and ordered to burn incense before it. He forcefully kicked it to the ground. It is an act of magnificent courage, of extraordinary fearlessness. It is a symbol of Catholic courage and aggressiveness.

Should we imitate these attitudes? Yes, in a certain sense. We are not in conditions to imitate the physical aggression, but we can imitate the moral attitude of St. Victor. Often we have to face the idols of the modern world that almost everyone adores. We are also invited to adore them in order to fit into the world. Often we have the opportunity to destroy these idols by giving them a strong kick, so to speak. We should do this rather than bow our heads and tremble before such idols. We should courageously kick these idols to the ground. We have often done exactly this by the grace of Our Lady. We should continue to do so, and now for an additional reason: to follow the example of St. Victor.

The opposite defect of this courage is human respect, the shame to stand up for Catholic principles, the lack of courage to oppose the revolutionary opinions and fashions that are accepted by the general populace as the only true ones, the only ones with the right of citizenship.

We should maintain this norm of action: Whenever we are in the presence of the arrogant impiety of neo-paganism in any of its forms, our Catholic pride must oppose its arrogance. We should do it in a way that our pride triumphs over revolutionary arrogance. We should not be afraid, for instance, to oppose the French Revolution, its myths and its symbols. We should courageously speak against it, just as St. Victor stood against the false god and kicked the idol to the ground.

Let us ask him to obtain this precious grace for us.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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