When Jesus deliberately
began his "journey" to death, Luke says that he "set his face" to go to Jerusalem. It is this
quality of rocklike courage that distinguishes the martyrs.
Most of what we know about this saint
comes from the poet Prudentius. His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their
compiler. But St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on St Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his
martyrdom before him. We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death
to the story we have (and as with some of the other early martyrs the unusual devotion he inspired
must have had a basis in a very heroic life), Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend St. Valerius
of Zaragossa in Spain. The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and
the following year against the laity. Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia. Hunger and
torture failed to break them. Like the youths in the fiery furnace (Book of Daniel, chapter three),
they seemed to thrive on suffering.
Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of
his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound like those of World War II were tried. But their main
effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself. He had the torturers beaten because
he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to
the emperor's edict? He would not. Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining
courageous, the torturer losing control of himself. Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell and
converted the jailer. Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given
among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest. When they finally settled
him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.
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