First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
The people we honor today had one thing in common: they gave up their lives for Christ. They were martyred because they were followers of the Lord Jesus. By the year 64, Emperor Nero's human rights violations had reached proportions beyond description. When a fire broke out in Rome on July 16, it was commonly believed that the emperor himself was responsible. As two-thirds of Rome lay in ruin, resentment grew. Nero became fearful. He needed a scapegoat and blamed the fire on the Christians.
Tacitus, a well-known historian, recorded that the Christians suffered cruel deaths. Some were fed to wild beasts. Others were tied to posts and became human torches that lit the Roman streets. The exact number of heroes is not known, but their gift of witness and their lives made a lasting impact on the people. Nero's was the first persecution by a Roman emperor, but not the last. And the more the Church was persecuted, the more it grew. The martyrs had paid the price so that all who would come after them could have the opportunity to embrace the faith.
In our prayer today, we offer thanks to the Father for the martyrs of Rome for they have paid the price so that all who come after them would have the opportunity to embrace the faith.