Weather – As the weather is on the day of Mary’s birth, so it will be for four weeks.
Today is best known as the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is also the memorial of Saint Adrian of Nicomedia.
“At Nicomedia, St. Adrian, with twenty-three other martyrs, who ended their martyrdom the 4th of March by having their limbs crushed, adfter enduring many torments under the emperors Diocletioan and Maximian. Their remains were carred to Byzantim by the Christians, and buried with due honors. Afterwards, the body of St. Adrian was taken to Rome on this day, on which his festival is celebrated.”
Adrian stands tall in the company of military saints and is especially venerated in northern Europe – Germany, northern France, and the Low Countries. He is commemorated on 4 March, his death day, and 8 September, the day of the translation of his relics.
According to the story (as embellished by The Golden Legend), Adrian was a young man of 28, newly wed (to a closet Christian, if only he knew!), with a home in Nicomedia and a great career ahead of him in the employ of Emperor Galerius Maximian. One of his jobs as a member of the Praetorian Guards was to supervise the execution of those poor souls convicted of being Christians. One day, as he oversaw the torture of thirty-three of the wretches, the sight of their devotion and perseverance made him ask what they expected to get out of all this? To which they answered with a verse from 1 Corinthians: “…That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.”
This operated so powerfully on the young man that he converted on the spot. Stepping into the midst of the broken bodies, he declared that he too was a Christian.
As you might guess, the emperor was annoyed. This time, when the guards left the jail cell, Adrian didn’t go with them.
Wife Natalie, however, was overjoyed. She ran to the prison to cheer her husband on his martyrdom journey. After kissing his chains and reminding him to keep his mind on the glory of heaven, she went home and waited to hear what day he would be executed.
Adrian found out what day, and by dint of bribing his old jailhouse friends, was allowed to go home and give the good news to his wife. She, not knowing that he had left pledges of money against his return to jail, immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had reneged on his conversion. Well really! Barring the door against him, she said, “God forbid that I speak to the mouth of him that denied his Lord!” God didn’t forbid, and she certainly told her husband what she thought of him, calling him a wretch and a coward and a felon, not to mention a Judas! And what about her? Married to a felon! For a little while, she thought she was going to be the wife of a martyr, but now she would be reproached as the wife of a renegade! And if he tried to enter the house, she would kill herself, and then he would be sorry! And blah, blah, blah…
When Adrian could get a word in edgewise, he explained to her just how it was, whereupon she was all smiles again, and returned to the jail with him to continue her ministry of cheerful fortitude. Once the emperor found out that women were comforting the prisoners, he forbade them to continue, but he was no match for Natalie! She shaved her head and put on men’s clothes and continued to visit the prison.
After torturing Adrian and the other 33, the emperor decided to make an end of them (but not too quickly). He decreed that their limbs should be broken and struck off on an anvil. And so it was. Second to last of Adrian’s body parts to be removed were his hands – once that was done, the executioner struck off his head with a sword. Natalie secretly took one of her late husband’s hands and kept it on her night-table. The rest of the 34 bodies were hidden until they could be taken to Constantinople, where they stayed until the persecutions ended and it was safe to translate the relics to Rome.
Adrian is a patron of soldiers, jailers, and executioners, and was invoked against plague. Several 19th century sources claimed that he was also the patron of Flemish brewers, but I can’t find any corroboration of that. Doesn’t matter. Can’t have too many saints protecting the suds.
I suppose, as he is a military saint, the proper meal for today would be C-Rats – I think they are called MREs now (“Meal, Ready-to-Eat”). They are still sold in the Commissary, but I don’t think a walk down memory lane – at least that particular memory – is in order here. (C-rats and a beer – now that’s military!)
There are also those perennial mess-hall favorites – SOS (Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast) and Bug Juice (something liquid from a powder, usually greenish).
By the way, Roman soldiers ate pretty good.
Today would be a good day to thank a soldier, sailor, airman, marine, or coast guardsman for putting their lives on the line. Check out Soldiers' Angels to adopt a serviceperson or a veteran. The Angels do good work, collecting and posting letters and care packages, and they can always use another pair of willing hands or a donation.
Artwork: “Saint Adrian” from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 15th century. Morgan Library, New York. He’s holding the sword and the anvil – instruments of his martyrdom.