This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18 -- Feast of Saint Perfecto de Cordoba

Does a promise of immunity from prosecution expire?  If so, isn't it only fair that the expiration is declared along with the assurance of immunity?  Alas, Father Perfecto was given the promise but not warned about the expiration (which was probably unknown to those making the promise).   Thus, he became the first martyr during the Umayyad Caliphate's occupation of Andalusia, Spain. 

I like to think it was a sunny day on April 18, 850.  Maybe Father Perfecto, who had been born after the establishment of the Caliphate in Cordoba, was walking along the Rio Guadalquivir, thinking about the Paschal Mass he had offered on April 6 (thanks, Quick Easter Calculator!).  Maybe he was wishing that people would clean up after their dogs along the riverbank instead of leaving a mess for someone to step in.  Who know...

Death in Andalusia
Anyway, a couple of Muslims approached him and struck up a conversation.  There was nothing to that.  Christianity was not forbidden under the Caliphate, but Christians had to be careful not to evangelize.  Apostasy was forbidden for Muslims, and encouraging apostasy was forbidden for Christians.  Moreover, defaming the Prophet carried (carries still) the death sentence.  But these fellas seemed like they really wanted to understand their Christian neighbors, so they were asking about the faith in an academic, safe kind of way. 

Then they asked the Big Question.  What do you think of the Prophet Muhammad?  Really, how do you understand who he was and what he did. 

Perfecto wisely told them that it would be unwise to tell them.  Not a safe subject, thanks for the chat, the crocuses are lovely, aren't they?
Did they have crocuses in 9th century Spain?
We won't tell a soul, they promised.  Just between us, because we really want to understand what our community better...

So according to via Google Translate, Perfecto says, "Muhammad is the demon man, sorcerer, adulterer, cheater, accursed of God, an instrument of Satan, come from hell to ruin and condemnation of the people."  

Yeah, well, that killed the friendly conversation.  I figure the other guys were bug-eyed and backed away from him, like you would a mad dog because it would probably spring at you if you turned your back on it.  

They mulled over what they had heard for a week or so.  By that time, they figured the promise of immunity had expired and God's law demanded that the priest's head be struck off.  A quick trip to Emir Abd al-Rahman II and all the details were arranged.  

Perfecto had time to run and of course he had not done so.  If he had been offered a team of horses and enough money to reach Paris he would not have left.  But word is bond, and if you encourage a crime, even a crime like blasphemy, with a promise to remain silent, you have to honor your word.  Not for a week, not for a month, but for as long as you live.  

In his novel Valis, Philip K. Dick comments that a divine judge should apply a person's own theological values to judge him or her.  He imagines that his friend Kevin, a brutally sarcastic and skeptical agnostic, would be mocked by God on Judgment Day, a fitting punishment for the way he humiliated his devout companions.  If that was / is / will be the nature of the final judgment, I wonder what would be in store for the folks who betrayed Perfecto's confidence. 

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