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Telemachus was a monk who lived in Asia Minor in about the year 400 AD. During his life the gladiatorial games were very popular. The gladiators were usually slaves or political prisoners who were condemned to fight each other unto death for the amusement of the crowd. People were fascinated by the sight of spurting blood.

Telemachus was very much disturbed that the Christian Emperor Honorius sponsored these games and that so many people who called themselves Christians went to see them. The Church was opposed to the games and spoke out against them, but most people would not listen because they were deaf to God’s unbounded message of love.

Telemachus realized that talking about this evil was not enough. He had to do something. But what could one lone monk do against the whole Roman Empire? He was unknown. He had no power. The games had been entrenched in Roman life for centuries. But he set out for Rome anyway.

When Telemachus entered the city, the people he met had gone mad with excitement. “To the Coliseum! The games are about to begin! “Telemachus followed the crowd. Soon he was seated among all the other people. Far away in a special place he saw the emperor.

The gladiators came out into the center of the arena. Everybody was tense. Everybody was quiet. Now the two strong young men drew their swords. The fight was on! One of them would probably die in a few minutes. Who would it be?

But just at that moment, Telemachus rose from his seat and ran into the arena. He held high the cross of Christ and threw himself between the two combatants.

“In the name of our Master,” he cried, “Stop fighting!” The two men hesitated. Nothing like this had ever happened before. They did not quite know what to do.

But the spectators were furious. Telemachus had robbed them of their anticipated entertainment! They yelled wildly and stampeded toward the center of the arena. They became a mob. With sticks and stones they beat Telemachus to death.

Far down there in the arena lay the little battered body of the monk. Suddenly the mob grew quiet. A feeling of revulsion at what they had done swept over them. Their once deaf ears sensed a stirring. Emperor Honorius rose and left the coliseum. The people followed him. Abruptly the games were over.

Honorius sensed the mood of the crowd. His ears too were opened. He issued an edict forbidding all future gladiatorial games. Honorius’ ears had been opened to the violence and dehumanization of the games. As a result he was able to speak.

So it was that in about the year 404 AD, because one individual, filled with the love of Christ, who dared to say no, all gladiatorial games ceased.

Thanks to Robert Salzgeber for sharing this story.

What is it about human nature that loves violence and mobs?

If YOU were there that day, would you have felt deprived of your entertainment and become part of the mob? What would have caused you to act differently? 

Could a Telemachus have stepped forward on January 6th and risked being killed to prevent the violence and mob scene that swept our Capital?  Who could have stopped the violence and the mob scene that day?

“In the name of our Master, stop fighting!”  Is this what you and I and many others need to stand up and shout over and over today, to bring our country together?


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