Since well before the middle of the sixth century, August 30th has been the feast of two Roman martyrs, a priest named Felix, and a man who after his martyrdom was given the name “Adauctus”, meaning “added-on” or “increased.” The reason for this is explained in their “passio”, the account of their martyrdom read in the Divine Office. This version is taken from a Roman Breviary printed in 1529; even at the height of the Italian Renaissance and its cultivation of “proper” Ciceronian Latin, the stories of the Saints’ lives were still often read in their medieval forms, which are stylistically quite simple, and all the more pleasing for it.
“(Felix) jussione imperatorum cum ad secretarium judicis esset perductus juxta templum Serapis, dum cogereretur ad sacrificandum, exsufflavit in faciem statuæ, et statim cecidit. Item ductus ad Mercurii statuam in alia ædicula, simili modo in illam exsufflavit, et mox cecidit. Item ad simulacrum Dianæ, quod pari modo dejecit. Reductus autem ad præfectum, in equuleo ponitur, et inquisitus quibus maleficiis hoc fecisset, beatus Felix respondit: ‘Non maleficiis diaboli, sed beneficiis omnipotentis Dei mei hoc feci.’
Furore itaque accensus præfectus, jussit eum duci extra urbem, via Ostiensi, quia illic arbor excellentissima astabat dæmonibus consecrata, juxta quam erat templum, ut ibi ad sacrificandum compelleretur. Quo perductus, oratione facta, dixit ad arborem, ‘Præcipio tibi in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi, ut radicitus corruas, ac templum et simulacrum vel aram ejus comminuas, ut culto tuo amplius animæ non decipiantur.’ Quæ statim ad verbum ipsius ita eversa est, ut templum et simulacrum comminueret, … Quod cum nunciatum fuisset præfecto, statim jussit eum decollari, …
Lata sententia, obvius ei fuit quidam vir Christianus, hominibus quidem absconsus, Deo vero manifestus. Hic cum didicisset quod beatus Felix duci fuisset jussus, coepit clamare et dicere, ‘Et ego ex eadem lege sum, et ipsum quem hic sanctus presbyter confitetur, Dominum Jesum Christum colo.’ Mox et ipse ab officio præfecti comprehensus, pariter dato sibi osculo, cum beato Felice decollatus est. Hujus nomen quia non invenerunt Christiani, postea Adauctum eum vocaverunt, quia sancto martyri Felici adauctus sit ad coronam, ipsiusque pro fidei confessione corona sit aucta. Christiani itaque hos invenientes, in eodem loco ubi arbor steterat … eos sepelierunt … ubi pacis tempore digna martyrum memoria exculta est.
(A fresco of the Virgin and Child with Ss Felix (right) and Adauctus (left), painted in the catacomb of Comodilla, close to the site of their burial off the Via Ostiense, ca. 530 A.D. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
When by the emperors’ order Felix had been brought to the judge’s chamber next to the temple of Serapis, as they tried to force him to sacrifice, he breathed on the statue’s face, and it immediately fell down. Again being brought to a statue of Mercury in another temple, in the same way he breathed upon it, and it fell down at once. Again (he was brought) to an idol of Diana, which he cast down in the same way. Having been brought back to the prefect, put on the “little horse” (i.e. the rack, an instrument of torture) and asked by what sorceries (maleficiis) he had done this, the blessed Felix responded, “Not by the sorceries of the devil, but by the benefits (beneficiis) of my almighty God have I done this.”
Enraged by this, the prefect ordered him to be brought outside the city on the Ostian way, because in that place there stood a very tall tree consecrated to demons, next to which there was a temple, so that he might be forced to sacrifice there. When he was brought there, having prayed, he said to the tree, “I command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to fall down from the roots, and smash the temple and its idol or altar, so that souls may long no longer be deceived by your worship.” And immediately at his word it was overturned, so that it smashed the temple and the idol. … and when this was announced to the prefect, he immediately ordered him to be beheaded.
When the sentence was handed down, a certain Christian man came to meet him, one who was hidden from men, but manifest to God, and when he had learned that the blessed Felix had been ordered to be lead (to his death), he began to cry out and say, “I am also of the same law, and I worship the very Lord Jesus Christ whom this holy priest confesses.” He was immediately seized by the prefect’s servants, and when when they had exchanged a kiss, he was beheaded with the blessed Felix. Because the Christians did not learn his name, afterwards they called him Added-on (Adauctus), because he was added on to the holy martyr Felix for his crown, and his own crown was increased in accord with his confession of faith. Therefore the Christians, having found them, buried them in the same place where the tree had stood, and there in the time of peace their memory was worthily kept.”
(The Glorification of Ss Felix and Adauctus, ca. 1759, by Carlo Innocenzo Carlone. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
For various reasons, this story is not considered historically reliable, but the phenomenon which it describes is very real. In the annals of Christian hagiography, there are many stories of people who were spontaneously converted to the Faith by seeing the constancy of the martyrs in the midst of their torments; it is not rare for such persons to become martyrs themselves, even joining the suffering Christians of their own will right on the spot. In 2015, a Ghanaian named Matthew Ayariga was seized in Libya by terrorists, along with a group of twenty Egyptian Copts. Although he was not a member of the Coptic Church, he refused to embrace Islam, even at the threat of being beheaded; seeing how the others prayed and called upon the Holy Name of Jesus as they died, he said of them, “Their God is my God,” and was slain in their company.