St. Cassian was a schoolmaster at Imola in northeast Italy. He died a martyr during the Roman persecutions, probably in the third century.
Cassian had apparently been a school teacher for some time (most likely of only pagan kids). Then a widespread persecution of Christians commenced. Roman officials arrested him because he was known, or at least suspected, to be a Christian. He was taken before the governor, and the governor demanded, as usual, that he offer sacrifice to the gods. Naturally, Cassian refused to perform this act of apostasy, so he was condemned to death.
Now, the Romans had many set types of execution to choose from, but sometimes they invented others. Knowing that Cassian was a schoolmaster, the governor decided that it would be a clever novelty to have him stabbed to death by his own pupils! Wouldn’t the kids love it!
The schoolmaster was therefore stretched out on the ground and fixed down securely. Then Cassian’s former students were brought in. They had not particularly liked their teacher because he had been strict with them. Given the signal, therefore, they set about with a fiendish joy to torment him. They broke their wooden writing tablets over his head, carved their initials carefully on his flesh, and finally stabbed him all over with their pens. Cassian meanwhile accepted their blows with much patience and no malice. He died bloodied with a thousand little wounds.
This was truly a brutal execution. It brought death to Cassian, but it doubtless did greater harm to the executioners. Children encouraged in violence can be as cruel as young hyenas. The governor’s sentence was doubly criminal: he not only executed an innocent Christian; he corrupted the innocence of a large number of children. Our Lord spoke sternly about such corrupters: “It would be better for anyone who leads astray one of these little ones who believe in me to be drowned by a millstone around his neck in the depths of the sea.” (Mt. 18:5-6)
Today adults are more likely to corrupt children by destroying their sexual innocence. But an increasing number of youngsters are committing crimes of violence. Who but their elders have shown them the way? What will be their penalty in the Last Judgment?
St. Cassian, victim of youthful violence, help us to protect our little ones against such spoilers!
–Father Robert F. McNamara