I’d wondered what my response would be when the Roman soldiers eventually came. Would I hide? Would I pray for them to be blinded, and send them the in the wrong direction like Elisha the prophet.
But there is only one way.
While the horses are still jostling…
and the men surrounding the house…
I open the door.
The bride and groom were still on the roof.
To try any means of escape would endanger them.
I could not have that.
There was only one soldier still mounted on his horse. The Centurion moved his red cape to the side, revealing his sword and resting his hand on the hilt, tapping it lightly.
“Valentine,” he said in calm monotone, “You will come with us.”
“You know my name,” I replied, “I do not know yours.”
“This is all you need to know.” The words were stiff and practiced.
He removes his free hand from the reins, pulls out a scroll…
…unrolling it he read:
Against the decree of the glorious Emperor of the world, Claudius II, you, Valentine of Interamna, have illegally married thousands. You are hereby to be arrested. Your subversive and illegal activity shall cease. You shall be herewith transported to Rome where you will face the punishment for your crime against the Empire.
As he was reading I noticed a young soldier…
soft eyes peering from under his helmet…
they led my vision down to the ground…
with the tip of his blade he drew in the dirt…
A knowing nod from him and I remembered.
The name of the commander I did not know.
This one’s name I did.
It was only weeks ago that Italus and Alena had come to me by night to be married.
Now emboldened by the presence of a friend I spoke up.
“It has been a long ride. Your horses are tired. With you to Rome I shall go. But come first, breakfast is made, share it with me, and your horses can rest for the journey back to Rome.”
“The horses are fine.” He replied, head raised proud.
“Their coats are wet…
noses are down…
eyes half shut.
A few moments of rest.
It is breakfast, not subtrafuge.”
Young Italus moved forward and spoke quietly with the Centurion.
Then raising his hand, the soldiers moved toward me.
But suddenly he lowered it and they retreated.
Dismounting his horse he spoke again, “I am Marcelus Marius – and breakfast it is. But just that. We have our orders.”
Between bites of meat and bread I had the chance to tell them of our Lord, and the Centurion present at the foot of the Cross. But Marcelus was clearly uneasy, so I did not keep him for long.
Rising from the table I extended my hands forward to be bound.
“You do not plan to try escape, do you priest?”
“No, I do not.”
“Then perhaps there is no need to…”
I interrupted his words.
“You are a man subject to authority, Marcelus, as am I. I understand.”
With that he relented…
…and my hands were bound.
There would be no more marriages in Interamna this day.
There is more to this story of Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, which will conclude on Valentine’s day.
Please come back.
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