1. MARTYRS IN THE EARLY CHURCH
In the early days of the Church, the heartless rulers of Rome considered it a crime to believe in Our Lord. Time and again, they gave orders to their soldiers to capture and put to death all those who believed in the God Who made heaven and earth. Thousands and thousands of Christians were cruelly tortured and killed because they loved Jesus and tried to serve Him.
Those who gave up their lives for the sake of our dear Lord are called martyrs. In this world the martyrs suffered imprisonment, torture, and death because they loved God. Our Heavenly Father has rewarded them, and now they are happy with Him in His kingdom.
Sometimes, in those terrible days, officers in the army, and men and women of high rank were put to death because they were Christians. The Roman soldiers had no need to go out and search for the brave St. George. His wisdom and bravery had won him promotion after promotion in the army. The emperor admired his faithful captain and had shown him many signs of friendship. However, as soon as the emperor sent out his commands against the Christian the noble heart of George felt that it could no longer serve the enemy of his God.
2. ST. GEORGE DIES FOR THE FAITH
George went to the emperor and said to him
"I am a Christian. No longer can I be a soldier of him who hates the God of the Christians.”
Then taking the shield from his breast and the sword from his belt, he continued,
"At your feet I place the gifts you gave me, because I will not use them against God's people."
The emperor laughed at the soldier he loved! He thought that this foolish notion would soon leave the mind of the bravest man in his guard.
"Go, my friend," he said, "and offer incense to our Roman gods. Forget your foolish notions."
But St. George refused to be sent away so easily. He informed the emperor that he had been serving the God of the Christians in secret for a long time. This news made the emperor angry, and he commanded the guards to cast George into prison. Here he was brutally treated. In his suffering Our Lord comforted him and said to him,
"Fear not, for I am with you."
The Emperor promised St. George his freedom if he would give up his faith. But the soldier reported to the emperor that nothing could shake the faith of his former favorite. The sentence of death was then pronounced. Soon St. George was numbered with the saints in heaven.
3. THE FEROCIOUS DRAGON
A very interesting story is told of St. George' battle with a dragon. This ugly monster had eyes that flashed fire, and rows of large, pointed teeth. Often it would dash through the wood tearing up by the roots trees that stood in its way. For years it had lived on the other animals of the forest, and its hunger was so great that most of the other wild animals had now disappeared. It began to attack the herds of cattle and the flocks of sheep. Young calves and sheep were its food for many a day. But even this did not satisfy the terrible dragon. It began to eat men, women, and children.
The poor people were angry when the dragon stole the calves and sheep from their flock But imagine how frantic they became when the wild beast of the forest began to eat the people! For a long time they did not know what to do. Finally they made an agreement to send daily to the dragon two sheep.
Things went well as long as the sheep were sent to the den of this monster. But after some time, there were no more sheep to send, and the calves had long ago disappeared. What could the frightened people do?
They decided on a plan which seems terrible to us. They agreed to send to the dragon each day two children, to be drawn by lot. What a dreadful sentence of death to give to the innocent children! Mothers wept bitterly, and the hearts of fathers were broken with grief, as they kissed their little ones good-bye before they were placed outside the city gates to be the food of the dragon.
4. A BRAVE GIRL
Finally, the lot fell upon the daughter of the ruler of the city. The news was a shock to him. He had seen the daughters of other men go forth to death, but had thought little of it. Now that his own beloved daughter was doomed, he rebelled. But the people of the town stormed about his home, and demanded that there be no exception. The choice by lot was final, whether it fell upon the daughter of the ruler or the daughter of the pauper. The ruler pleaded for his child, but the angry people paid no attention to him. The girl, however, had a nobler and braver nature than her father. She said to him very calmly,
"I shall gladly give myself for the people."
The people of the town really loved this hero girl. They were half inclined to choose another in her place. But the girl had made up her mind that she was not to be an exception to the rule Her day of fate finally came. She appeared at the gates of the city dressed in a flowing white dress, with her brown hair falling in curls to her waist. Many of the townsfolk had come to bid her farewell. Her grief-stricken father kissed her over and over again. The feeble old keeper of the gates regretfully opened them. The girl passed through and gave a fond last look at her weeping friends. The gates were closed again.
The sad-hearted people thought that they had seen the girl for the last time. When the gates were closed, the doomed girl gave way to her feelings and wept bitterly. Until now, for her father's sake, she had kept her courage in a wonderful manner. Now, alone on her way to death, she did not need to care.
5. SAVED FROM DEATH BY ST. GEORGE
Slowly the white-clad figure passed along the footpath that led to the swampy part of the forest to which the dragon carried his prey. Suddenly she was startled by the sound of a horse's hoofs. She turned around and saw a soldier on a large white horse, galloping toward the gates of the city. Knowing that he would have to cross her path, she dried her eyes and tried to smile. The rider stopped his horse on the road in front of the girl. The soldier wondered where this pretty child was going. He asked her a question or two, and the poor girl could hide her tears no longer. She told him the story of the dragon and the casting of lots. Imagine his amazement when she told him that she was on her way to death!
The soldier could not understand how the men in the town would permit such an outrage He said to the girl,
"Wait here and I shall slay this monster."
The brave girl begged him to hurry to the city lest he too should die. But fear was never known to enter the heart of Saint George, for such was the name of the soldier.
St. George made the sign of the cross, and called upon God to come to his help. With his horse he dashed into the woods, and soon beheld a hideous beast approaching him. The horse was frightened. He snorted and raised himself up on his hind legs. St. George spurred him on to attack the fiery-eyed dragon. Opening its jaws, again and again the hissing dragon snapped at the horse. Several times St. George struck the beast on the head with his lance, but the blows did little harm. They only enraged the dragon more and more. The ugly beast rose to its full height, opened its mouth wider than ever, and leaped for the horse's neck. The horse made a quick turn and the dragon fell to the ground. St. George hastened to take advantage of this, and drove his lance through the jaws of the beast, pinning it to to ground.
The story goes that he firmly tied the head of the dragon, and had the brave girl lead it to the city. The people were terrified as the smiling girl led their ugly enemy into their midst. The women ran screaming to their homes. Men pretended not to fear, but their hearts were trembling.
St. George on his handsome white steed followed close behind the dragon. He told the people as he passed that they need have no fear because the true God had given him power over the dragon. He urged them to be converted and baptized. "Believe in the great God Who has given me this victory," he said, "and I shall kill the dragon this day."
God blessed St. George in his fight with the dragon because He wished to make known to the people His great power. The people of the town were soon converted and baptized. They gave rich gifts to St. George, but this true friend of God gave everything to the poor. No greater reward could be given to him than to see the people believe in the God Whom he loved and served, and to see their lives freed not only from the cruel dragon but from the pagan gcds whom they had served. St. George was a brave loyal soldier of his country and a holy faithful soldier of his God.
~ A Child’s Garden on Religion Stories, Imprimatur 1929 ~
COPY AND FILL IN THE BLANKS
1. Those are called martyrs who ____________________________________.
2. George said to the emperor ____________________________________________________ .
3. The emperor was angry when he heard that George ______________________________
4. The dragon first ate; then, and finally _____________________________________________.
5. The last plan of the frantic people was ____________________________________________
6. Before fighting with the dragon, George __________________________________________
7. The greatest reward that the people could give George was ________________________
Two coloring pictures of this Saint can be found below: