Today we celebrate St Vincent (+304) Deacon and Martyr who served in the church of Saragossa. He was tortured to death in Valencia in Spain, in the persecution of emperor Diocletian. After his death, his cult spread rapidly through the Roman Empire. In the Office of Readings, St Augustine offers us words of wisdom on how to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of trials and temptations.
So do not any of you be too self-assured when offering a word; do not be too confident in your own powers when suffering trials or temptations; because it is from him [Christ] that we have the wisdom to speak good things wisely, from him the patience to endure bad things bravely.
Call to mind the Lord Christ warning and encouraging his disciples in the gospel; call to mind the king of martyrs [Christ] equipping his troops with spiritual weapons, indicating the wars to be fought, lending assistance, promising rewards; first saying to his disciples, In this world you will have distress; then immediately adding words that would allay their terrors: But have confidence: I myself have vanquished [overcome] the world.
So why should we be surprised, dearly beloved, if Vincent was victorious in him by whom the world was vanquished? In this world, he says, you will have distress; such that, even if it distresses, it cannot oppress you; even if it knocks you down, it cannot knock you out. The world mounts a double attack on the soldiers of Christ. It flatters in order to lead them astray; but it also terrifies, in order to break them. Let us not be held fast by our own pleasures, let us not be terrified by someone else’s cruelty, and the world has been vanquished.
Such hideous cruelty was being unleashed on the martyr’s body, and such calm serenity was displayed in his voice; such harsh, savage punishments being applied to his limbs, but such assurance echoing in his words, that we would have imagined that in some marvellous way, while Vincent was suffering, that it was someone else and not the speaker that was being tortured.