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St. Peter Balsamus or Apselamus
11-Jan

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1895:
ST. PETER BALSAM, M.

From his valuable acts in Ruinart, p. 501. Bollandus, p. 128. See
Tillemont, T. 5. Assemani, Act Mart. Occid. T. 2, p. 106.

A.D. 311.

PETER BALSAM, a native of the territory of Eleutheropolis, in Palestine,
was apprehended at Aulane, in the persecution of Maximinus. Being
brought before Severus, governor of the province, the interrogatory
began by asking him his name. Peter answered: "Balsam is the name of my
family, but I received that of Peter in baptism." SEVERUS. "Of what
family, and of what country are you?" PETER. "I am a Christian."
SEVERUS. "What is your employ?" PETER. "What employ can I have more
honorable, or what better thing can I do in the world, than to live a
Christian?" SEVERUS. "Do you know the imperial edicts?" PETER. "I know
the laws of God, the sovereign of the universe." SEVERUS. "You shall
quickly know that there is an edict of the most clement emperors,
commanding all to sacrifice to the gods, or be put to death." PETER.
"You will also know one day that there is a law of the eternal king,
proclaiming that every one shall perish, who offers sacrifice to devils:
which do you counsel me to obey, and which, do you think, should be my
option; to die by your sword, or to be condemned to everlasting misery,
by the sentence of the great king, the true God?" SEVERUS. "Seeing you
ask my advice, it is then that you obey the edict, and sacrifice to the
gods." PETER. "I can never be prevailed upon to sacrifice to gods of
wood and stone, as those are which you adore." SEVERUS. "I would have
you know, that it is in my power to revenge these affronts by your
death." PETER. "I had no intention to affront you. I only expressed what
is written in the divine law." SEVERUS. "Have compassion on yourself,
and sacrifice." PETER. "If I am truly compassionate to myself, I ought
not to sacrifice." SEVERUS. "My desire is to use lenity; I therefore
still do allow you time to consider with yourself, that you may save
your life." PETER. "This delay will be to no purpose, for I shall not
alter my mind; do now what you will be obliged to do soon, and complete
the work, which the devil, your father, has begun; for I will never do
what Jesus Christ forbids me."

Severus, on hearing these words, ordered him to be hoisted on the rack,
and while he was suspended in the air, said to him scoffing: "What say
you now, Peter; do you begin to know what the rack is? Are you yet
willing to sacrifice?" Peter answered: "Tear me with iron hooks, and
talk not of my sacrificing to your devils: I have already told you, that
I will sacrifice to that God alone for whom I suffer." Hereupon the
governor {081} commanded his tortures to be redoubled. The martyr, far
from fetching the least sigh, sung with alacrity those verses of the
royal prophet: _One thing I have asked of the Lord; this will I seek
after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my
life_.[1] _I will take the chalice of salvation, and will call upon the
name of the Lord_.[2] The governor called forth fresh executioners to
relieve the first, now fatigued. The spectators, seeing the martyr's
blood run down in streams, cried out to him: "Obey the emperors:
sacrifice, and rescue yourself from these torments." Peter replied: "Do
you call these torments? I, for my part, feel no pain: but this I know,
that if I am not faithful to my God, I must expect real pains, such as
cannot be conceived." The judge also said: "Sacrifice, Peter Balsam, or
you will repent it." PETER. "Neither will I sacrifice, nor shall I
repent it." SEVERUS. "I am just ready to pronounce sentence." PETER. "It
is what I most earnestly desire." Severus then dictated the sentence in
this manner: "It is our order, that Peter Balsam, for having refused to
obey the edict of the invincible emperors, and having contemned our
commands, after obstinately defending the law of a man crucified, be
himself nailed to a cross." Thus it was that this glorious martyr
finished his triumph, at Aulane, on the 3d of January, which day he is
honored in the Roman Martyrology, and that of Bede.

* * * * *

In the example of the martyrs we see, that religion alone inspires true
constancy and heroism, and affords solid comfort and joy amidst the most
terrifying dangers, calamities, and torments. It spreads a calm
throughout a man's whole life, and consoles at all times. He that is
united to God, rests in omnipotence, and in wisdom and goodness; he is
reconciled with the world whether it frowns or flatters, and with
himself. The interior peace which he enjoys, is the foundation of
happiness, and the delights which innocence and virtue bring, abundantly
compensate the loss of the base pleasures of vice. Death itself, so
terrible to the worldly man, is the saint's crown, and completes his joy
and his bliss.

Footnotes:
1. Ps. xxvi. 4.
2. Ps. cxv. 4.

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