Second Century General Riding the Wheel of Fortune
On the door to my classroom today is a saying by G.K. Chesterton: "The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen."
If the parallels between the life of Saint Eustathius and the Book of Job seem implausible, see the quote above. If the coincidences that restored Eustathius' greatest losses to him seem unbelievable, see the quote above.
Eustathius was a hot shot Roman general during the imperial reigns of Titus and Trajan. Given what a bastard Domitian was, it is not surprising that he didn't hold command under him or under Nerva, but it speaks well of Trajan that Eustathius was called back under the eagle.
Called to the Faith
|Saved, but no deer|
Woe upon Woe
Had it been me, I might have found pitched myself into the river in the hopes of floating down to some rapids that would dash my brains, but he must have recalled God's message about defeating the Devil. He found a job on a farm and worked hard for five years or so.
Meanwhile, back in Rome, Trajan is in need of a top-notch military strategist. He puts the word out that he's looking for General Placidas. A few veterans set out to find him, and a couple actually wind up in his vicinity. Eustathius tries to keep his identity secret, but his scars are distinctive and unforgettable. Thus exposed, he returns to Rome with them and takes up command. Among the troops he conscripts are two young men who both happen to be adopted. They're hanging around quarters talking one night and learn that each one was taken from his family by a predatory animal but then subsequently (miraculously) rescued by a farmer.
As it happens, their story is overheard by Theopiste. The sea captain who had abducted her was struck dead of a sudden violent fit before he could ever violate her, and she was turned loose when the ship reached port. There she stayed until the Roman army showed up and her sons happened to be discussing their fortunes within earshot. She hastened off to beg permission to travel with the army back to Rome, but when she got to the commander's tent, she immediately recognized her husband. His family reunited and his military victory secure, Eustathius sets out for Rome to report to the Emperor.
Hadrian, rather than Trajan, held imperium by this point. He was an odd, theatrical emperor, but he was decisive, smart, and effective. Glad of the victory and impressed by the tale of his general's fortunes, he planned a massive sacrifice to offer thanks to the gods. Eustathius, of course, didn't show up. Summoned for questioning ("You, of all people, should be thanking the gods..."), the general explained his Christianity. Hadrian, in turn, explained the death penalty.
|Roman Barbeque -- the bull's the grill and the people are well-done|
With the preliminaries out of the way, a large bronze bull was built and the family closed up inside it. Then a fire was kindled underneath it and the saints were roasted alive. Three days cooking ought to have done it, but when the bull was cooled and opened, the bodies were not burned in the slightest. Dead, yes, but unblemished.
Job was luckier and yet less lucky than Eustathius. In Job 42:12-13 we read, "So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters." He didn't get his own kids back, but he got new ones (apparently at least one new wife). For my part, I'd rather have my own wife and kid(s) back. Then again, Job lived to be 140 years old and saw his great-grandchildren. Eustathius got to see his family prematurely extinguished with him in a slow, uncomfortable death.