Maurice – Our Patron Saint
Maurice was born in 250 A.D. in Thebes, an ancient city in Egypt near the site of the Aswan Dam. He was an acknowledged Christian at a time when the Church was considered to be a threat to the crumbling Roman Empire. Yet, he moved easily in the pagan society of his day.
He was a good soldier and a born leader. The emperor Probus commissioned him to select and command a full Roman legion. His legion, the Theban Legion, was made up of 6,600 men. Most of them were Christian.
The Theban Legion was a crack battalion. It displayed exceptional intelligence, discipline and valor. Maurice was their leader in the truest sense. He was totally committed to God and was concerned with the spiritual and the temporal welfare of his men. He ate with them and worked with them. He engaged in play with them and prayed with them. He rejoiced in their victories and suffered with each loss. They were a military family.
In 284 A.D., Diocletian became Emperor and divided the empire. He chose a soldier named Maximian to rule the west from Milan. Besieged at Martigny by nomadic tribes from the north, Maximian sent an appeal for reinforcements. The Theban Legion was dispatched with orders to clear the St. Bernard Pass across Mt. Blanc. They were ordered to clear the pass by ruthlessly pillaging and brutally massacring those who resisted. Before going into battle, they were instructed to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and pay homage to the emperor.
Maurice pledged his men’s military allegiance to Rome. He stated that service to God superseded all else. To engage in wanton slaughter was inconceivable to Christian soldiers he said. He and his men refused to worship Roman gods.
Enraged by such insubordination and convinced by his soothsayers that the Christians were responsible for the reverses for the war; Diocletian ordered the execution of the entire Theban Legion. On September 22, 286 A.D., 6600 “conscientious objectors” chose martyrdom and glorification following the example of their leader, St. Maurice.