In ancient Rome, a popular form of entertainment was gladiator fights. If you’ve seen the movie Gladiator, you have an idea of what they were like: violent, cruel, and often ended in people’s death – all just for entertainment.
Gladiator games obviously are no longer going on in Rome. So when did they stop? We actually know the exact day: January 1st, A.D. 404.
And it was because of a saint.
Telemachus was an ascetic monk from the east who, upon coming to Rome, was horrified at the cruelty of the gladiator games. Even though Christianity had been made the official religion of Rome by Emperor Theodosius in A.D. 380, the games had continued.
According to the writings of the 5th century bishop Theodoret of Cyrus, Telemachus ran into the middle of the gladiator games and tried to physically stop the gladiators from fighting. The spectators were so upset that they stoned him to death.
The Emperor Honorius was so disturbed by the murder of the holy monk that he banned the gladiator games from that day forward. They were never resumed – that was that.
So as we begin the new year, perhaps we can meditate on the courage of St. Telemachus. What are the injustices of our own day? And how might God be calling us to bring them to end, even if it means courageously sacrificing ourselves?
[See also: 5 Saints Who Had Terrifying Visions of Hell]