Jesus warned his disciples that they should expect no better treatment than Himself. They would be haled before governors and kings on His account, and brothers would even hand brothers over for execution.
That prophecy was literally fulfilled in the case of St. Roderick, a Spanish martyr who died at the hands of the Muslim Moors in A.D. 857. His was a bitter case of the reverse of Christian love. We owe the account to eyewitness St. Elogius, who later on died for the faith himself.
It must be admitted that when the Mohammedans invaded Spain in A.D. 711, even they were sometimes shocked by the lack of religious principles among a large number of the Hispanic Christians. As the Moors swarmed in, the Catholics, far from presenting a strong front, became divided. Many, whether out of fear or lack of faith, voluntarily gave up their Christianity. Families thus split asunder and the members on either side railed at each other.
St. Roderick was to prove a sad victim of this sort of betrayal. He was a good priest of Cabra who had two irresponsible brothers. One of them was a bad Christian who had all but abandoned his faith. The other had gone still further and joined Islam. One night the two started to fight each other unmercifully. Roderick tried to break them up, but instead of yielding, they turned on him and beat him senseless. Then the Muslim brother had the priest put on a litter and carried half-conscious through the streets. The Muslim accompanied the bier, proclaiming that Father Roderick, too, had apostatized, and that he wanted it known publicly before he died. Eventually the victim did recover and went off to a safe place.
But Father Roderick had not yet seen the last of his renegade brother. The Muslim met the priest soon afterwards in the streets of Cordova. He had Roderick taken at once before the Mohammedan kadi (judge), where he accused him of the crime of having returned to Christianity after public profession of his Muslimism.
Although Father Roderick protested that he had never denied his Christian faith, the kadi clapped him into the city’s worst dungeon.
In that fetid jail, the priest at least had the comfort of finding one Solomon, another Christian prisoner who had been accused of the same “unforgiveable” crime. Both of them were given a long term of imprisonment, in the hope that they would convert. But each man encouraged the other, and they remained firm in their Christian convictions. Even when separated, they would not change their belief.
Eventually, the kadi ordered the Catholic priest and the layman beheaded. St. Eulogius saw their headless bodies lying on the riverside. He noticed that the guards were careful to throw into the stream any stones stained with the men’s blood, for fear the faithful might pick them up as relics.
The soldiers sought in vain to ward off veneration of SS. Roderick and Solomon. Spanish Christians would always honor them thereafter as martyrs. And they would also gradually learn from this heroism that the Faith is something really worth dying for.
–Father Robert F. McNamara