In the early days of Christianity, many Catholics suffered for the holy faith. The Roman emperor Diocletian, who ruled from 284 to 305, was an especially brutal executor of the followers of Christ. On one particular day, he had a Catholic young man named Timothy arrested and thrown in jail. He was charged with being “a keeper and copyist of divine books”; that is, Timothy was a reader during special liturgies at Church, and he kept and made copies of sacred texts used for the worship of God. Now, the emperor Diocletian had ordered that all such books were to be confiscated and burned, so soldiers brought Timothy before a pagan governor who demanded that this Christian man hand over the sacred books. Timothy refused to obey this unlawful command, and as a result, he was subjected to horrible tortures: he had white-hot irons shoved in his ears; he was blinded and his eyelids were cut off; he was hung upside-down with a stone around his neck. Indeed, so extreme did his tortures become that even his torturers implored the governor to ease up. And yet Timothy preferred enduring all these tortures to denying Christ.
At about this time, the pagan governor was told by assistants that Timothy had a young wife named Maura, who was married to him just twenty days beforehand. Upon hearing this, the governor immediately demanded that his wife be brought to the scene in order to break the will and spirit of Timothy. If he couldn’t tempt him to deny Christ for his own sake, thought the pagan governor Arian, surely he could induce him to give in to apostatizing for Maura’s sake. When Maura arrived, Arian appealed to Maura’s hopes and dreams to try to persuade her to get Timothy to apostatize. “After all,”
insisted Arian, “you’ve only been married for three weeks. Don’t you want to live the life you’ve been promised? Don’t you want to raise a family with your husband, to grow old with him? All Timothy has to do is hand over the Scriptures and he will be set free to live in peace to a happy old age with you.” Timothy, however, urged his wife to remain faithful and to not fear the torturers. Faced with this dilemma, Maura boldly declared to her husband, “I am prepared to die with you.” She courageously professed that she too was a Christian and would prefer death over a life lived apart from Christ.
Enraged, the pagan governor commanded that her hair be torn from her head, and her fingers cut off. Various other tortures were employed, but all to no avail. Timothy and Maura remained faithful. Finally, the governor ordered that they be crucified upon crosses that faced directly across from each other.
As they hung upon these crosses facing each other, they mutually supported one another by praying together, singing hymns, and encouraging each other as they suffered for Christ. When one was weak, the other would be strong, reminding the beloved of what Jesus suffered for them and of the LORD’s promise of everlasting life. After ten days o f incredible fortitude and fidelity to Christ displayed by the two of them, both found themselves welcomed into the kingdom of God as glorious martyrs. This incredible witness of their courage and abiding joy so inspired their torturer that he soon became a Christian, was later martyred himself, and is now venerated in the Eastern Church as St. Arian of Alexandria!
Though they were married for less than a month, Saints Timothy and Maura displayed an incredible understanding of — and witness to — the purpose of marriage. Far more important than growing old
together with your spouse and having your romantic dreams fulfilled in your relationship, marriage is ultimately meant to be a martyrdom of sacrificial witness to Christ. Spouses ought to challenge and encourage one another to ever more closely follow Christ, enduring both suffering and joy together in doing so, with their ultimate goal being to present their best friend before the Lord as spotless and holy, worthy of sharing in the glorious inheritance of the saints (cf. Eph. 5:26-27).
And so, how stunningly beautiful is the married couple that models this mutual love for Christ and desires their spouse to be united with the Lord more than anything else for them! In other words, how beautiful are spouses who each love God more than they love each other, and hence their love for each other is driven by the ultimate desire to see their spouse united with God! Because Saints Timothy and Maura both had this greater love for God than for each other, and hence they each submitted themselves to the mission of getting each other to heaven, they were able to encourage one another through unimaginable pain and suffering; indeed, their suffering became a cause of rejoicing as they sang hymns together during their crucifixions, for their hope of seeing the other united with God was being fulfilled in their becoming glorious martyrs of Jesus Christ.
As Saints Timothy and Maura so wonderfully model, when couples live out the Sacrament of Matrimony in all its beautiful potential, it enables man and woman to make visible the mystery of Christ’s faithful and sacrificial love for his Church. Modern married couples, therefore, are called to bear the same witness to this mystery before the world through a life of chastity within marriage (using the gift of their sexuality according to God’s designs). Though this is not always easy, the times it is difficult can
become precisely the sources of greatest joy for the spouses, as the two of you are suffering as witnesses to Christ to the world. And, just like the witness that Saints Timothy and Maura provided for St. Arian, you never know who might become the next holy convert to the faith because of the beautiful witness to Christ that you and your spouse are providing for the world!
Saints Timothy, Maura, and Arian, pray for us!
Robbie Simon hails from Redondo Beach, California and is a recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is currently serving as a missionary in Toledo, Ohio with The Culture Project, a Catholic organization dedicated to speaking to teenagers and young adults on the topics of love, sex, and relationships. He enjoys traveling, eating Mexican food, and having philosophical conversations, but he is most passionate about studying Sacred Scripture and making it accessible for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.