Their brotherly connection was solidified by their shared belief in Jesus Christ.
However, this isn’t always the case, and there are many examples of siblings who were united in their beliefs.
One example is from the early Church, when “Seven Holy Brothers” were martyred in the 2nd century. They are usually connected to St. Felicity, another famous martyr from the same time period.
According to the Golden Legend, a collection of medieval stories, St. Felicity and her sons were arrested and told to renounce their Christian faith. However, she refused to do so and urged her sons to do the same.
Her answer was: “I can neither be seduced by your blandishments nor frightened by your threats, for my security is from the Holy Spirit who is with me; and alive I will withstand you, and will vanquish you completely when you kill me!” Then, turning to her sons, she said: “My sons, look to heaven and fix your gaze above, because Christ awaits us there, so fight bravely for Christ and show yourselves faithful in the love of Christ!”
In many ways their story resembles an episode from the book of Maccabees.
It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and cords, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. 2 One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.”
[T]he brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, “The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song which bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, ‘And he will have compassion on his servants.’” (2 Maccabees 7:1-6)
Historians generally discredit the legend of the Seven Holy Brothers and do not think they ever truly existed. For this and other reasons their feast was removed from the General Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church during the 20th century.
Regardless of the historical veracity of the story, it is likely based on some truth, as it’s certain that families were sent to their deaths during the Roman persecutions. The exact number of brothers is not entirely important, as the thrust of the story is to show a family united in faith, ready to meet their deaths.
They can still be an inspiration to families today, who are trying to stay faithful to Christ in the midst of persecution. Felicity and her seven sons remind us that God can work miracles through our weak human families and can give us the strength we need to stand-up for our faith in a world that rejects it.
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