A couple weeks ago, I had never even heard of St. Genesius. Then I made his acquaintance through Warren H. Carroll's book The Founding of Christendom, and now he's my saint for the year! It's strange how these “God-incidences” work sometimes.
St. Genesius was an actor in Rome during the reign of the dreaded emperor Diocletian, who issued an edict of persecution against Christians on February 23, 303. According to Carroll, Diocletian, who had never been particularly hostile to Christians, especially since his wife and daughter had Christian leanings, was bowing to pressure from co-ruler Galerius, whose domineering mother, Romula, was a priestess of a cult worshiping “wild, orgiastic mountain gods” (502-503). The emperor's edict prohibited Christians from holding public office or using the court system, banned anyone from freeing Christian slaves, and ordered the destruction of Christian churches and holy books (503).
In the month following the edict, fires broke out at Diocletian's palace in Nicomedia. The emperor, probably encouraged by Galerius, blamed Christians and heightened the persecution. All Christians and Christian sympathizers, including Diocletian's wife and daughter, were forced to sacrifice to the Roman “gods” or suffer torture and death (Carroll 504). Christian martyrs by the hundreds courageously embraced death rather than renounce Christ.
That autumn, Diocletian traveled to Rome to celebrate his twentieth anniversary as emperor. During one of the elaborate entertainments presented for the emperor, the actor and comedian Genesius took the stage to perform a mock Christian baptism. The idea was, of course, to ridicule the sacrament, but right in the middle of his performance, something very strange happened to Genesius. He suddenly recognized the truth of Christianity! God touched him deep within his heart, and he longed to receive the sacrament of baptism for real. Genesius proclaimed the truth of Christianity and his conversion to Christ out loud, right in front of the emperor and all the spectators. At first, no one believed him. They thought it was part of the act. As soon as Diocletian realized that Genesius meant what he said, however, the emperor was furious. He ordered the actor to renounce his new-found faith. Genesius firmly refused, even under torture. He was eventually beheaded, a Christian to the end (Carroll 504; “St. Genesius of Rome” at saints.sqpn.com; “Genesius of Rome” at New Advent).
I'm still not sure why St. Genesius chose to be my companion saint this year. God always has His reasons! I don't know yet what message the Lord will give me through Genesius, but I'm eager to get to know him better over the coming year.
If you haven't been chosen by a companion saint for 2013 yet, please visit the Saint's Name Generator, and see whom God has in store for you!