Image in the Public Domain
SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, A.K.A. EULOGIUS OF CORDOBA OR CORDOVA (DIED MARCH 11, 859)
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toledo
SAINT LEOCRITA, A.K.A. LEOCRITIA OR LUCRETIA (DIED MARCH 15, 859)
Convert from Islam to Christianity
As I write these words, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, is under a death sentence for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She denies this charge, the origin of which has to do with a disgruntled neighbor with a grudge more than anything Bibi said. Nevertheless, Bibi will almost certainly die soon under the blasphemy law of Pakistan. And, in many modern Islamic nations, anyone who converts from Islam places his or her life at risk, for the penalty for that is execution, too.
This is an old story. Consider the cases of St. Eulogius of Spain, whose feast day in the Roman Church is March 11, and St. Leocrita, whose Roman feast day is March 15. (I have merged these feasts for the purposes of my Ecumenical Calendar.) Their stories are intertwined tales of the sometimes high cost of discipleship.
The Muslim conquest of Spain began in 711. For almost 800 years, until 1492, there remained a Muslim state on the Iberian peninsula. Life for non-Muslims under this political reality was one of second-class citizenship. There were, for example, taxes that Muslims did not have to pay. And, depending on the mood of the emir or caliph, there were varying degrees of religious toleration or persecution. But the death penalties for alleged blasphemy and apostasy predated the conquest and rule of Spain.
We do not know when St. Eulogius was born, but he was at least 30 years old in 848, when he was already a priest. His family, Spanish nobility dating to Roman imperial times, was devout. The saint, an excellent student of available knowledge in various disciplines, trained his mind well. He studied such matters as the Bible, theology, philosophy, hymnody, poetry, history, and science. The saint also cultivated concern for his fellow Christians. For a brief time, after the beginning of a wave of persecution in 850, St. Eulogius cancelled Masses, thinking that this might decrease the number of Christian martyrs. His bishop reversed this decision.
St. Eulogius became Archbishop of Toledo about 859. It was a brief archepiscopal tenure, for he met his own martyrdom. He had changed his mind since 850, for he offered encouragement to those dying for their Lord and Savior, even writing memorials to them. He had spent years alternating between freedom and imprisonment for this reason. And so it happened that Leocrita, a young Moorish woman, converted from Islam to Christianity under the influence of a relative. St. Eulogius granted St. Leocrita shelter. The authorities captured and executed both of them, Eulogius on March 11, 859, and Leocrita four days later. The charge against the archbishop was proselytizing, while the accusation against the young woman was apostasy.
Former President Jimmy Carter recalled a sermon the Reverend J. Robert Harris, pastor of Plains Baptist Church, Plains, Georgia, from 1955 to 1967, delivered one Sunday. If it were illegal to be a Christian, Harris asked, would there be enough evidence to convict you? In the cases of Eulogius and Leocrita, the answer is “yes.”
Blessed be the blood of the martyrs, past, present, and future, and blessed be the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 21, 2011 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT AGNES, MARTYR
I have written the Collect and chosen the readings.–KRT
Faithful God, we thank you for the holy examples of Saints Eulogius and Leocrita, who brought glory to you in life and death. May we, who succeed them in the Christian faith, follow you wherever you lead, and thereby witness to you with our whole being. In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
2 Timothy 4:1-8
Revised on December 24, 2016