Italy is dear to me, not only because it is part of my beautiful family heritage, but because of Rome and early church history. I've never had a chance to go, but there have been many people of other countries, faiths, and religions who have gone and absolutely loved it. I've never heard of anyone going and hating it. No, it seems to change the way you look at life.
One thing about Italians is that when you are in the family (no matter how far back or how connected), you are one of them forever. That is pretty true of my brother's in-laws, which make up our family since I was in Gr. 7. With 20 years of knowing them, they're such a part of our lives that it's hard to remember when they weren't there. Fun, food, and always loud, which is just happy and normal to us. Yelling is multi-purpose; could mean you are having fun or you are really mad...
The early Christians didn't have much as far as material things go, plus their best friend and God was taken away from them by a horrible death. They were left alone, frightened, and confused---at first. They had to bond together and sold what they had to look after each other so that no one ever went hungry or homeless. Pentecost came and God's spirit shook the building, the room they were hiding in, and their souls right to the core of their being. They now had his amazing power to take on the world, preach to anyone in hearing range, heal the sick and cast out demons, and suffer for their beliefs.
Sometimes we get so used to hearing about the Saints and Martyrs that we take it for granted and what we celebrate at church becomes just a ritual, instead of realizing that it is the way, the truth, and the life. Looking up the catacombs gave me a much greater and deeper appreciation for my faith and backround. Italians were not Catholic because they were born into it, in their family/culture, or were baptized and go to church twice a year. If that were the case, it would have meant nothing to them in their daily lives or at the point of their deaths. It wasn't just about celebrating feast days or something they admired from a distance and then put back on the shelf for next time.
It was worth giving up everything for.
The Martyrdom of St. Cyprian
It would have been very useful and edifying to have the reports of the trials of the martyrs Pontianus, Fabian, Cornelius, Sixtus II, Eusebius, Cecilia... Unfortunately, during the tremendous persecution of Diocletian the archives of the Church of Rome were destroyed.
But the reports of St. Cyprian's trial have come down to us. The Acta were read in the Christian communities for the glory of the Martyr in order to strengthen others in the moment of their ordeal. We can therefore assume that the reports of the trial of the other martyrs just cited were written in much the same way.
Carthage, 14th September 258.
" On the morning of September 14 a large crowd gathered at Sesti by order of proconsul Galerius Maximus. And the same proconsul Galerius Maximus bade that Cyprian should be brought to the hearing which he conducted on that same day in the 'Sauciolus Hall'. When bishop Cyprian stood before him, the proconsul said to him:
'Are you Tascius Ciprianus?' Bishop Cyprian answered: ' Yes, I am.
Proconsul Galerius Maximus said: ' Are you the one who has presented himself as the leader of a sacrilegious sect' Bishop Cyprian answered: ' I am'.
Galerius Maximus said: ' The most holy emperors bid you to sacrifice'. Bishop Cyprian said: ' I will not do it'.
Proconsul Galerius Maximus said: 'Think it over'. Bishop Cyprian said: ' Do what you have been ordered to do. In such a just cause there is nothing to think over'.
Galerius Maximus, after conferring with the college of magistrates, with difficulty and unwillingly pronounced this sentence: ' You have long lived sacrilegiously and have gathered many in your criminal sect, and set yourself up as an enemy of the Roman gods and of their religious rites. The pious and most holy Augusti emperors Valerian and Gallienus, and Valerian most noble Caesar, failed to bring you back to the observance of their religious ceremonies.
Therefore, since you have been seen to be the instigator of the worst of crimes, we shall make an example of you before those whom you have associated with yourself in these wicked actions. The respect for the law will be sanctioned by your blood'. Having said this he read out in a loud voice from a tablet the decree: 'I order that Tascius Ciprianus be punished by being beheaded'. Bishop Cyprian said: 'Thanks be to God'.
Following the sentence, the crowd of Christian brethren said: ' We want to be beheaded with him'. At this there was great agitation among the brethren and a large crowd followed him. Thus Cyprian was led into the countryside of Sesti, and there he took off his cloak and hood, knelt on the ground and prostrated himself in prayer to the Lord. He then removed his dalmatic and gave it to the deacons, leaving himself only in his linen garment, and so waited for the executioner.
When the latter arrived, the bishop ordered his own followers to give the executioner twenty-five gold pieces. Meanwhile his brethren held out pieces of cloth and handkerchiefs ( to receive the blood as relics). Then the great Cyprian with his own hands bandaged his eyes, but since he could not tie the corners of the handkerchief, presbyter Julian and subdeacon Julian went to help him.
Thus bishop Cyprian was martyred and his body, because of the curiosity of the pagans, was placed in a place nearby where it was hidden from their indiscreet eyes. It was then carried away at night with lighted flares and torches and accompanied as far as the cemetery of procurator Macrobius Candidianus, which is in the 'Huts' Road near the Baths. A few days later, proconsul Galerius Maximus died.
The holy bishop Cyprian was martyred on September 14th under emperors Valerian and Gallienus, but in the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all honour and glory be forever. Amen". (From the Acta Proconsularia,3-6).