Saint Genesius of Rome  

This week’s Saint of the Week is Saint Genesius of Rome who lived in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries.  He was an actor and the leader of an acting troupe. The anti-Christian Emperor Diocletian was scheduled to be in Rome in the year 303 to celebrate his 20th anniversary as Emperor, and his infamous persecutions of Christians was underway and in full force.

Saint Genesius, who was a pagan, devised a plan to perform a play ridiculing the Christian faith in the hopes he would be able to perform for the Emperor and parlay that into further success thereafter. He went undercover into the Christian community, posing as a catechumen seeking admission to the faith in order to do research for his play.  His acting was so good that he was never found out and disappeared just before he was to be baptized into the Christian faith.

All of his planning and hard work paid off and Saint Genesius and his troupe did perform for the Emperor while he was in Rome.  During the performance, Saint Genesius played the part of a dying man who wanted to be baptized.  When the actor playing the role of the priest poured water on his head in the faux baptism, Saint Genesius experienced the grace of God, who revealed the truths of the Christian faith to him on the spot.  He immediately began professing his faith in our Lord Jesus Christ with such fervor that it soon became obvious to all that he was no longer acting.

The performance was stopped, and Saint Genesius and his entire troupe was arrested.  When it  became clear that his companions were not in on the act, they were released.  Saint Genesius was subjected to severe torture but given the option of recanting and sacrificing to Roman gods to save his life. He steadfastly refused, choosing martyrdom over apostasy, and was ultimately beheaded.  His last words were recorded to be, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is God and we shall have life in his name”. Although the baptism during the performance wasn't real, Saint Genesius was considered to have been “baptized by blood” through his martyrdom.

Following his death, his body was recovered by Christians that were moved by his conversion and martyrdom.  He was buried in the Cemetery of St Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, with other Christian martyrs. In 1591, his relics were transferred to a tomb in the Church of Santa Susanna, where they lie to this day. 

While Genesius’ mock baptism was not valid since it was not the intention of his fellow actor, through his martyrdom he is considered to have been “baptized by blood”.

Patron Saint of: Actors, actresses, comedians and those who work in the theatrical arts; cinematic arts.

Feast Day:  August 25th

Prayer to St. Genesius 

St. Genesius, you were a Roman actor and playwright, who performed with a troupe for the emperor. Under emperor Diocletian, the Christians faced severe persecution and you wrote plays mocking them and their rituals. Once, you pretended to be a catechumen in order to research material for your satire on baptism. The play was performed for the emperor himself and you were in the lead role, pretending to desire the sacrament. Everyone was laughing at your antics.

But when the actor playing the part of the priest poured water over your head, you saw the heavens opened and the Hand of God touching you. An angel showed you your many sins which had just been washed away by the baptism you had received. Instead of continuing the mock play, you boldly declared your newfound belief in Christianity before the whole court. Enraged, the emperor ordered you imprisoned and tortured until you renounced the faith. You refused and were eventually beheaded.

St. Genesius, your fellow Christians collected your body and buried you with other martyrs. Your sacrifice for Christ enabled the Church to flourish and grow. Pray that we may persevere in our faith until death. St. Genesius, the sacraments bestowed such a grace upon you that your eyes were opened and you were converted. Pray for unbelievers, that they may experience the living God and dedicate their lives to His will. St. Genesius, you are the patron saint of actors and actresses; pray that all Christian actors will glorify God by their unique talents and gifts. Amen.

St. Genesius, pray for us!

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