SAINT ALBAN (?-c.304), martyr
Today, the Church honors Saint Alban, known as the first Christian martyr of Britain. Alban was believed to be a pagan soldier in the Roman Army stationed in the town of Verulamium, now called St. Albans in Hertfordshire. His exact background is unknown, but popular tradition declares him a native Briton.
During the religious persecutions under the Roman emperor, Diocletian, Alban received into his house and sheltered a Christian priest by the name of Amphibalus, and was so struck by his devotion to God and the blameless life with which he lived that Alban placed himself under his instruction and became a Christian.
A rumor had reached the governor of Verulamium that a priest was hiding in the house of Alban, who then sent soldiers to arrest the priest. Alban, seeing them arrive, hastily threw the long cloak of the priest over his own head and shoulders and presented himself to the soldiers as the man whom they sought. He was immediately bound and brought before the governor who, at that moment, was standing at one of the pagan altars offering up sacrifice.
When the cloak which had concealed Alban’s face was removed, it was immediately revealed that he was not the priest whose arrest the governor had ordered. The governor became incensed and immediately ordered Alban to sacrifice to the gods or suffer death.
Alban steadfastly refuse to sacrifice to idols and stated, “I am a Christian and I worship and adore the True and Living God.” The governor order Alban to be scourged, hoping to weaken his resolve and apostatize – renouncing his faith. However, seeing that Alban was enduring his torture and remaining strong in his Christian beliefs, the governor ordered him executed by being beheaded.
Upon arrival at the place of execution, the executioner refused to perform his duties and, throwing down his sword, confessed himself to also being a Christian. Another man was detailed to deal the fatal blow, and both Alban and the executioner who had refused to take the life of Alban were decapitated together about the year 304.
Finally, when the priest learned that Alban was arrested in his place, he turned himself in, hoping to save Alban’s life, but he was too late, as Alban has already been executed. The priest was killed as well.
After Christianity was legalized by Emperor Constantine the Great in the year 313, the local community erected a small Martyrium above Alban’s tomb as a shrine, where pilgrims could visit and pray. Today, Saint Alban’s Cathedral now stands near the execution site.
We commemorate his feastday on June 20.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, newadvent.org and earlybritishkingdoms.com)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for One Martyr)
“All-powerful, Ever-living God, You gave Saint Alban the courage to witness to the Gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. By his prayers, help us to endure all suffering for love of You and to seek You with all our hearts, for You alone are the Source of life.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”