[At Rome] on the Aurelian road, the holy martyr Pancratius, who, at fourteen years of age, endured martyrdom by decapitation under Diocletian. Also, at Rome, St. Denis, uncle of the same blessed Pancratius.
Pancras, or Pancratius, was born in Phrygia to well-to-do Roman citizens. By the time he was eight, both of his parents had died; he and his uncle Dionysius (Denis) then moved to Rome where they had rental properties. Here they lived the good life with all that money could buy – nice house, servants, fashionable clothes, the latest in toys and gadgets, pizza every night... what more could a pre-teen want?
Tradition says that they both converted to Christianity in Rome. Dionysius died when Pancras was fourteen, and the young orphan, who may have given away his wealth for the care of the poor, came under the notice of the emperor (popularly supposed to be Diocletian, although one source says it was Valerian). The emperor called Pancras “the son of my right dear friend” and urged him to give up the madness of his faith, promising wealth and honors if he did so, “that I may have thee with me as my son.”
Now, how many people of any age do you think would not leap at the chance to live in the White House, or in one of the multi-million dollar mansions of the rich and famous as a favored relative? At no real cost to themselves, either, just a little matter of giving up their unpopular views and conforming to the status quo.
Pancras wasn’t one of them. He said, with all the severity of the young, that the so-called gods were lying, incestuous fornicators, and if the emperor wouldn’t have servants of such depravity in his household, why would he worship gods with the same proclivities? In any case, the youth was sticking with the one True God and no other. Being unable to persuade him otherwise, the emperor condemned him to death; as a Roman citizen, he was decapitated.
Tradition (and possibly St. Gregory of Tours) said that anyone swearing falsely either before the relics of St. Pancras or by his name would be struck immediately with madness or with death, therefore he is invoked against false witness and perjury. He also protected the good faith of treaties.
Today, we are called upon to sacrifice to the gods of the culture – to say that abortion is not only a good thing but a necessary thing; that pregnancy is an illness or a punishment; that eugenics – the killing of those deemed undesirable – is the answer to overpopulation; that killing your elderly parents is okay, they are just a drain on society and your expectations; that marriage is really just a pretense which is used to enslave women; that marriage is just a form in which two people, or a person and his sheep, or a person and his baby daughter, or “Uncle” Tony next door and your eight-year-old son, can show their commitment to each other. We are expected to worship the oracles of Capitol Hill, Hollywood, and major league sports, although their lies and fornications make daily blurbs in the newspapers.
Pancras, even at the age of fourteen, did not fall for their lies. Do you?
In his honor, let your teens and sub-teens choose the menu for dinner. It may require a digestion of iron, but do your best.
Artwork: Stained glass window in Saint Pancras New Church, London.