Livonia, Michigan

Feast of St. Maurice

According to the historical material St. Maurice was an Egyptian, born in AD 250 in Thebes, an ancient city in Upper Egypt that was the capital of the New Kingdom of Egypt. He was brought up in the region of Thebes (Luxor).

Maurice became a soldier in the Roman army. He rose through the ranks until he became the commander of the Theban legion, thus leading roughly a thousand men. He was an acknowledged Christian at a time when early Christiani-ty was considered to be a threat to the Roman Empire. Yet, he moved easily within the pagan society of his day. The legion, entirely composed of Christians, had been called from Thebes in Egypt to Gaul to assist Emperor Maximian in defeating a revolt by peasant insurgents. The Theban Legion was dispatched with orders to clear the Great St. Bernard Pass across the Alps. 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 He stated that service to God superseded all else. He said that to engage in wanton slaughter was inconceivable to Christian soldiers. He and his men refused to worship Roman deities.

However, when Maximian ordered them to harass some local Christians, they refused. Ordering the unit to be punished, Maximian had every tenth soldier killed, a military punishment known as decimation. More orders followed, the men refused compliance as encouraged by St. Maurice, and a second decimation was ordered. In response to the Theban Christians’ refusal to attack fellow Christians, Maximian ordered all the remaining members of his legion to be executed. The place in Switzerland where this occurred, known as Agaunum, is now Saint-Maurice, Switzerland, site of the Abbey of St. Maurice.

St. Maurice is the patron saint of soldiers, swordsmiths, armies, infantrymen, weavers and dyers.