When my book about saints first came out, a good friend who has a lot of grandkids encouraged me to write a book about teenage saints. Such a book is much-needed for Confirmation gifts, she said. Maybe someday I will write such a book, but August 6 is the perfect day to talk about two pairs of teens whose faith in Christ should put adults to shame.
Blesseds Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa were born and raised in Uganda and became Catholics when they were only eleven and fifteen, respectively. These two boys were so devoted to their faith that they even taught other children in their village about the Good News. But within a few years of their conversion, in the year 1918, local leaders ordered Christians to stop teaching the Gospel. When the two boys, still in their teens, refused to obey, they were executed with spears and knives.
But bravery in the face of violent persecution is not a modern invention. Sixteen centuries earlier, Saints Justus and Pastor were Christian schoolboys living in Spain. When the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered a crackdown against the Church in the year 304, Justus (who was only thirteen years old) and Pastor (who was only nine) not only refused to renounce their faith in Christ despite torture, they encouraged one another while they were being tortured. The man who had been sent by the authorities to locate and execute Catholics in their city was so humiliated by the public bravery of the two boys that he had them taken away and beheaded in secret. Was he afraid that their supernatural faith in God was contagious?
No one knows for certain, but as the Church celebrates Saints Justus and Pastor on August 6, it’s impossible not to imagine the four teenagers, good-naturedly comparing their experiences in Heaven.
Though Saints Justus and Pastor are commemorated by the Church on August 6, Blesseds Daudi and Jildo are commemorated on September 18.
Holy Martyrs, teach me your courage in standing up for the Gospel.