May 8, 2019

Holy Martyr Victor of Milan

St. Victor of Milan (Feast Day - May 8)

The Holy Martyr Victor of Milan, also known as Victor the Moor and Victor Maurus, was born in ancient Mauretania, a Roman province on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. He was a Berber of the Mauri tribe, after which the Moors were named. Born into a Christian family during the latter part of the third century, he nevertheless became a soldier in the Roman army and advanced through the ranks to become a member of the Praetorian Guard that served the Roman emperor Maximian who was the emperor for the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 305.

His zeal for Christ became known to Maximian after Victor had destroyed a pagan altar to a Roman god. Brought before the angry emperor, Victor confessed his love of Jesus Christ which he would not deny. Maximian then ordered Victor's imprisonment. Finding that Victor would not deny Christ, the emperor then ordered his further subjection to imprisonment and various tortures. Still rejecting the emperor's calls to sacrifice to the pagan gods, Maximian finally, in 303, directed the beheading of Victor in the emperor's garden in a small wood called The Elms in Milan.

Before his martyrdom, Victor foretold that the emperor would soon die. After his beheading on May 8, Maximian ordered that no one was to bury his body so that it would be eaten by the wild animals. When six days later the emperor sent his soldiers to check the condition of Victor's body, they found it untouched by the animals. The emperor then ordered his body buried. After having received permission to bury the martyred Victor's body, Bishop Maternus of Milan found it was guarded by two beasts, one each at his head and his feet. As the holy Maternus approached, the beasts withdrew and Bishop Maternus wrapped the corpse in linen and buried it, in peace, not far from the small wood on May 14.

Veneration of the martyr Victor began soon after his death. Saint Gregory of Tours recorded that miracles occurred above his grave over which a church was built. Saint Ambrose of Milan encouraged devotion to the martyr Victor. In his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Ambrose wrote: "Our martyrs Felix, Nabor and Victor were like mustard seeds: although they bore the odor of faith, yet they were passed over. But when persecution came, they laid down their weapons, extended their necks and, struck by the sword, shed abroad the beauty of their martyrdom even to the ends of the earth." And Saint Gregory of Tours writes in his work Glory of the Martyrs (Ch. 45):

"At Milan the illustrious martyr Victor is honored, because often he releases bound men from prisons and allows captives to depart as free men. At one time Apollinaris was fleeing to Italy with duke Victorius, who some say was killed in Rome. The inhabitants of one region seized Apollinaris as a captive, and said: 'You will not see your fatherland, but like your companion you will suffer an appropriate penalty.' After making these threats they sent him into exile at Milan. But it happened that it was the time for the festival of Saint Victor and people were assembling. Since he was constrained without restriction by an open custody, Apollinaris attended the vigils. He knelt before the holy tomb of the saint and began to pray more fervently than always that the power of the martyr free him from this exile. As he left the church about midnight, he heard one of the beggars talking with another. The beggar said: 'O fellow beggar, what do you think of the power of this martyr? I tell the truth and I am not mistaken that tonight whatever captive flees and is liberated from his master will return to his fatherland as a free man and will be pursued no further.' Apollinaris took these words as a sign sent by the will of God. Again and again he knelt at the tomb of the martyr and prayed that he be helped by the martyr's power and that he be able to leave without any opposition. Next he called his servant and ordered his horse to be saddled; he said: 'Today we must be freed from the chain of this captivity.' After mounting their horses they crossed the peaks of the Alps that were covered with drifts of snow and reached Clermont. The power of the blessed martyr preceded them, so that no one asked where they were going or whence they had come. It is obvious that they were saved from this tribulation by the assistance of the blessed martyr."