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By Edward O'Shaughnessy

St Nicephorus Martyr

Once in Antioch there was a priest called Sapricus and a layman called Nicephorus. These two were very good friends. At length they quarreled and would not speak to each other for a long time. Nicephorus, though, tried to say sorry to Sapricus for what he had done. The priest however would not forgive him. Nicephorus asked a second and third time but Sapricus had closed his ears. In this he had closed his ears to God as well, since God has commanded his people not to keep a grudge in their hearts. Then in the year 260 a persecution raged under the emperors Valerian and Gallian. Since Sapricus was a holy man he was told to come forth. The governor asked, "Of what profession are you?" to which Sapricus replied, "I am a Christian and acknowledge the true Christ." The governor was annoyed and sent orders for him to be tortured. This suffering did not change Sapricus in any way. He said, "You can kill me but you never can take my soul away from me." He was ordered to be executed. Nicephorus with his only chance to be forgiven fell at Sapricus feet and asked to be forgiven but the priest answered with nothing. Nicephorus did that a few more times but Sapricus would not listen. The soldiers laughed at Nicephorus saying, "He asked for a man's forgiveness when the man is about to be executed!" When at the place of execution Sapricus asked what he was charged for, to which the answer was "because you will not sacrifice to our gods, and will not obey the emperor's orders." Sapricus said, "Wait friends, I will worship these gods!" Nicephorus shouted, "Brother, what are you doing?" Do not renounce Jesus Christ our master!" And then to the soldiers, "I believe in the one Lord Jesus Christ. I will take the priest's place!" So the governor ordered him to be executed instead. For this Nicephorus had gained three immortal crowns, which were Faith, Humility, and Charity.

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