Just Good Company
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A Faith and Justice Pilgrimage in Rome
... and Related Reflections at Home

Joseph E. Mulligan, SJ

During a visit to Rome in November 2001, I was on the lookout for sites and stories which would be of special interest and inspiration to contemporary Christians who tend to express their faith and love by struggling for peace and justice. I was not disappointed. The catacombs, St. Peter's basilica, and other venerated places, as well as a demonstration against the bombing of Afghanistan, gave testimony to people's faithfulness to conscience and commitment to justice over the centuries.


After a meeting with a Church commission concerning the disappeared of Honduras (including a priest friend of mine, Fr. Jim Carney, who disappeared in 1983), I walked across a bridge over the Tiber and was struck by the first of many magnificent buildings I would see during my stay in Rome. This‑‑the synagogue in what used to be the Jewish ghetto‑‑is probably not the average tourist's first stop in this capital of Catholicism.

Engraved on the front of the synagogue are the names of Italian Jews who were taken away to be slaughtered by the Nazis. Inside, visitors are accompanied by a guide as they view the building; security was tightened up after a terrorist attack in 1982.

In her lecture the guide included a description of papal oppression of the Roman Jews: mainly, the pontiffs' policy of forcing them to live in the ghetto and to wear a mark of their Jewish identity.

The synagogue's museum offers visitors a leaflet summarizing local history. "In 1215 the Church forced the Jews to wear distinctive insignia on their clothing identifying them as Jews. In 1492 the Catholic monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, expelled the Jews from Spain and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilys (Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia). While the Borgia Pope Alexander VI allowed these Jews to remain in the Papal States, in 1555 his successor, Paul IV, established the Ghetto in Rome and required all Jews to live there....(1)

"Rome was declared an 'Open City' during World War II due to the presence of Pope Pius XII. As a result the Nazis did not destroy any monuments in Rome, including the synagogue, which was sealed and reopened after the war."

The tour guide did not offer her opinion on the much‑debated question of whether Pius XII did enough to prevent the holocaust; but later, as I looked at his statue among those of many other popes in St. Peter's Basilica, my perspective on the grandeur of the papacy was affected by what I had seen and heard on my first tourist stop.

Basilica of St. Peter

Perhaps the most moving experience I had was at the Basilica of St. Peter, viewing the body of Good Pope John XXIII, which was intact when exhumed some time ago. I felt more devotion and inspiration, and it was clear that many others sitting or kneeling in front of the body did too, there than in other parts of the basilica, probably because of the love and care for people which Pope John had and also because he unexpectedly opened the windows of the Church to let in the fresh airs of the Second Vatican Council with its clearer definition of the Christian commitment to justice and peace.

Michelangelo's Pietá has been behind protective glass ever since someone damaged it with a hammer in 1972. The famous sculpture of Mary holding the dead Jesus, to me, represents all the mothers whose children have given their lives in the struggle for the Kingdom of justice and peace, as Jesus did. I prayed that Mary and the martyrs would strengthen all people who are risking their lives in working for a more human society.

Perhaps few pilgrims viewing the Pietá ask themselves: why, after all, was Jesus (and later his followers) put to death? A modern‑day martyr had dealt with this important question before confronting it in his own flesh.

Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría, one of the six Jesuits assassinated in El Salvador in 1989, believed that Jesus, the Proto‑martyr, is being crucified today in the poor and other victims of injustice, and that our task is to bring this Jesus down from the cross alive. Ellacuría had written: "The struggle on behalf of the Reign of God necessarily presupposes a struggle in favor of the human unjustly oppressed; this struggle leads one into confrontation with those responsible for this oppression. Because of this (Jesus) died and, in this death, he conquered" ("por qué muere Jesús y por qué le matan?" Mision Abierta, 1977).

The day before my arrival in Rome, I was in the university plaza in Innsbruck, Austria, viewing a plaque commemorating Fathers Ellacuria and Segundo Montes, who was also assassinated next to Ellacuría; both had studied in Innsbruck.

The larger‑than‑life statues of pope after pope, sometimes seated between two fierce lions, left me rather underwhelmed‑‑or rather, overwhelmed by the contrast between all this symbolism of power and pomp on the one hand, and the humble service and self‑sacrifice which the Founder of all this embodied.

But shortly thereafter I was struck and inspired by a mosaic of Jesus Calming the Waters. Here Peter, the Rock, as well as the other apostles, are shown in all their weakness and fear and littleness, with their faith in Jesus waning; but then they are saved from destruction by Jesus himself, not by their own power or alliances or wealth.

In spite of all the material splendor and power represented by the churches and museums of Rome, the bark of Peter is navigating treacherous waters, with passengers bailing out right and left for various reasons. For some, Christianity presented primarily as a way to obtain miraculous help is hopelessly antiquated, and they are dismayed to see many pastors today promoting the old religiosity and superstition without true evangelization. One could trace in the gospels the theme of Jesus as the reluctant miracle worker, frequently chagrined to find people enthused by a miracle but uninterested in his message. (2)

Others get out because they see the Church, as represented by the grandeur of the Vatican, in an alliance with the economic and political powers of the world instead of really exercising that much‑touted "option for the poor." Male dominance in the leadership structures of the Church, so evident in Rome, represents a sinful injustice which many women can no longer tolerate.

Some few leave the Church because some preachers are true prophets and challenge the idolatry of money--these departures are a sign that the Church is being true to its calling.

Inside and outside the Church, people and organizations working for a new world are also feeling despair as they see their little barks of justice and peace projects foundering on the rough waves of violence, racism, sexism and greed. In all these situations, we must get beyond the basilicas and get back to the basics of the gospel, coming to know Jesus personally and his ways and dreams, and reaching out to him for strength and hope in our work for the Kingdom. All the ornate tombs and trappings of power are not keeping us afloat.

Protesting the Bombing of Afghanistan

Walking in Rome in the late afternoon, I was encouraged to see a small but lively demonstration against the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. (Two weeks earlier, on Nov. 10, 2001, 100,000 people had demonstrated against the war and an estimated 50,000 in favor.) People expressed condolences to me for the terrorist attacks of September 11 but did not consider Afghan civilians any less human or precious than those who had perished in the U.S. They were also challenging the Italian prime minister's decision to send troops to Afghanistan.

Sixteen months later the U.S. and England invaded Iraq, disregarding world opinion, including John Paul II´s clear denunciaton of an invasion as aggression. Rome was the scene of some of the most massive demonstrations against the war.


The tour guide in the catacombs spoke with reverence of the early Christian martyrs who were buried there (in the walls at different levels below ground). The Catacomb of Domitilla contains a 4th‑century basilica celebrating Sts. Achilleus and Nereus, Roman soldiers who had engaged in torture but who left the military when they converted to Christ and were themselves martyred. There is always hope for a change of heart!

Over a century later, the text of the Apostolic Tradition (217) would state: "A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if commanded, and to refuse to take an oath; if he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected [as a candidate for baptism].... A military commander or civic magistrate who wears the purple must resign or be rejected."

Said to have been baptized by Peter, Achilleus and Nereus were beheaded under the emperor Trajan around 100 A.D. (3) Peter himself had been executed by crucifixion, according to tradition, upside‑down, deeming himself unworthy to die in the same position as Jesus.

His suffering for the gospel is commemorated in the Mamertine Prison, where it is said that he was held along with St. Paul, the recovered persecutor of the first Christians. Other enemies of the Roman state, such as Vercingetorix, the hero of Gaul (executed in 46 B.C.), had been incarcerated here. The lower chamber of the jail, believed to be the oldest building in Rome (300 B.C.), reminded me of a "hole" below the floor of a jail at El Aguacate, a military base run by the CIA for the Nicaraguan Contras in Honduras, where Father James Carney may have been held.

A very early persecution of the Christians under the emperor Nero is described by the Roman senator and historian, Tacitus. Around 115 AD he wrote in his Annals that Nero persecuted the Christians in order to draw attention away from himself for Rome's devastating fire of 64 AD. In that context, he mentions Christus who was executed by Pontius Pilate: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus; and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

“Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

The Catacomb of St. Callixtus displays a beautiful statue of the martyr St. Cecilia, showing the slit on her throat, and also an inscription of the Greek word, Eirene, which means "peace." A St. Irene was martyred in 304 A.D. at Thessalonica‑‑"one of those devoted Christians who at the cost of their lives succeeded in concealing and preserving for posterity copies of the Holy Scriptures and other Sacred Books" under Roman rulers who sought to confiscate such literature. (4)

This transported me to El Salvador, where the bible has also been considered a subversive document. Fr. Rutilio Grande, the Jesuit pastor‑prophet‑martyr who was gunned down in 1977 and whose assassination had a profound impact on Oscar Romero, the new archbishop of San Salvador, had said: "It is practically illegal to be an authentic Christian in our situation, because the world around us is rooted in an established disorder; confronting that, the mere proclamation of the gospel is subversive.

 "I am very much afraid that soon the bible and the gospel will not be able to enter at our borders, because all its pages are subversive ‑‑ against sin, naturally. If Jesus of Nazareth returned, coming down from Chalatenango to San Salvador, I dare say he would not arrive, with his preaching and actions, even to Apopa; they would arrest him for being a subversive and would crucify him again."

Rutilio gave this sermon during a Mass on the occasion of the deportation of a Colombian priest from El Salvador; one month later Rutilio and two laymen were martyred.

St. Cecilia, St. Irene and other women martyrs were "seen in a christic way as graphic icons of the love and courage so central to the Christian story of salvation. Speaking about the torture of one Blandina, for example, Eusebius recounts that as she hung suspended on a sort of cross, her prayer and courage gave strength to her companions: ‘In this battle, they saw with their bodily eyes, in the form of their sister, the One who had been crucified for them.' Comments a French translator of this account: ‘Christians loved to discover, in their martyrs, the image of the suffering Christ.'"(5)

Appian Way and Spartacus

When I first saw the Appian Way, I was not aware of its significance as the scene of 6,000 crucifixions of rebellious slaves in 71 B.C. The cross as a horrible instrument for inflicting the death penalty was the price Jesus, the Christian martyrs, and armed strugglers paid for challenging authority in the Roman empire; and the scene of rebels writhing in agony on the cross was meant to discourage the masses from taking a similar path.

After my visit to Rome, I read Spartacus, the novel by Howard Fast which later became a film. A bit of further research helped me to understand the historical situation. Spartacus, a slave who had become a star gladiator in Italy, escaped with others in 73 B.C. and organized a slave revolt which challenged the security of Rome before it was defeated by the Roman army in 71 B.C.

Appian of Alexandria wrote that Spartacus´ forces were slaughtered and that the 6,000 survivors were all crucified along the Appian road from Rome to Capua. Spartacus himself has remained forever in the ranks of the disappeared.

The next time I go to Rome, I will walk along the Appian Way and remember Howard Fast´s imaginative version of Spartacus´ message to the Roman senate, delivered by the sole survivor of a massacre of a Roman cohort by the slave army: “Go back to the Senate (said Spartacus)... and tell them that they sent their cohorts against us, and that we destroyed their cohorts....

“We say that the world is tired of them, tired of your rotten Senate and your rotten Rome. The world is tired of the wealth and splendor that you have squeezed out of our blood and bone.... In the beginning, all men were alike and they lived in peace and they shared among them what they had.  But now there are two kinds of men, the master and the slave. But there are more of us than there are of you, many more. And we are stronger than you, better than you. All that is good in mankind belongs to us.

“We cherish our women and stand next to them and fight beside them. But you turn your women into whores and our women into cattle... You turn men into dogs, and send them into the arena to tear themselves to pieces for your pleasure, and as your noble Roman ladies watch us kill each other, they fondle dogs in their laps and feed them precious tidbits. What a foul crew you are and what a filthy mess you have made of life!” (6)

It seems likely that the spectacle of 6,000 crucifixions on the Appian Way was broadcast effectively throughout the empire and was known to Jesus and his contemporaries. A more recent mass execution by the Romans was even more vivid in the people´s consciousness: 2,000 of those who rebelled after Herod died in 4 B.C. were crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem by the Roman pacifiers. These horrible images were called to mind when Jesus noted that, in order to be his disciple, one must “deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps” (Mt 16:24).


After visiting the catacombs, I had a dream that night: Wearing my red cap with a C on the front (Cincinnati Reds), I am surrounded by a bunch of fascist‑like thugs who are calling me "communist" and moving in on me. Then I awoke for some cappucino, good Italian bread, and another day of looking for peace and justice themes on my first stay in Rome.

Jesuit Sites

In the Church of the Gesú, next to the simple quarters where St. Ignatius of Loyola lived and worked, I spent some time at the tomb of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, former superior general of the Jesuits. I felt his presence, as I had earlier that of John XXIII, and I gave thanks for his leadership in the Society of Jesus and the Church. He was instrumental in formulating the Jesuit mission as the service of faith which includes the promotion of justice as an integral element.

At the tomb of St. Ignatius, I felt grateful for his message that we should be liberated from "inordinate attachments," especially attachments to wealth, honor and pride, and that we should find God in all things.

Soldier Who Pierced the Side of Jesus

Returning to St. Peter's, I was interested in the statue of St. Longinus, prominently positioned close to the tomb of St. Peter (as is the statue of St. Andrew, Peter's brother, who is said to have been martyred for refusing to sacrifice to the deities of the empire). The story of Longinus is another case of a Roman soldier whose conversion meant that he gave up his military ways (torture, execution) and was martyred as a Christian.

The piercing of Jesus´ side is found in John 19:34: "One of the soldiers thrust a lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out." In John's gospel there is no clear indication that the soldier had a change of heart regarding Jesus, although John cites Zechariah 12:10 as being fulfilled in this scene: "They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn." The executed one touches the hearts of the witnesses. (See also Isaiah 53:5: "He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins.")

The first three gospels, on the other hand, explicitly describe a positive response by the soldiers. According to Luke, the Roman centurion, after hearing Jesus commend his spirit to the Father and seeing Jesus expire, "gave glory to God by saying, ‘surely this was an innocent man.' When the crowd which had assembled for this spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts"(23:47‑48).

In Mark, the centurion, "on seeing the manner of his death, declared ‘Clearly this man was the Son of God'" (15:39). In Matthew, the centurion and his troops made the same declaration, after an assist to their conscience by an earthquake (27:54).(Indeed, legend has it that Longinus was also helped to his conversion by a dramatic event: being of poor eyesight, he was cured when a drop of Jesus' blood touched his eyes.)

Perhaps the story of the conversion of "Longinus" was put together from all four gospel traditions. Other members of the Roman imperial delegation who were converted to Christ were the centurion Cornelius "of the Roman cohort Italica" (Acts 10) and Pilate's wife Claudia, who told her husband: "Do not interfere in the case of that holy man. I had a dream about him today which has greatly upset me"(Mt 27:19). Claudia is revered as a saint in the Greek Orthodox tradition. The astounding faith of the unnamed centurion whose servant was cured by Jesus led Jesus to indicate that the centurion would be one of many gentiles to find a place in the kingdom of God (Mt 8:5‑13).

John suggests that something was stirring in the hearts of the temple guards who did not carry out orders to arrest Jesus: "No man ever spoke like that before," they said (7:46). The ensuing argument leads the pharisee Nicodemus, whose fear had led him to visit Jesus under the cover of night (3:1), to summon up the courage to make a statement which qualifies him to be the patron saint of human rights: "Since when does our law condemn any man without first hearing him and knowing the facts?"(7:51). Nicodemus subsequently grew in courage, as did Joseph of Arimathea who followed Jesus in secret out of fear; they were bold enough to ask Pilate for Jesus'body for burial (19:38‑42).

Thus some of the religious authorities, as well as the security forces at their command, were drawn to Jesus by his offer of new life and by his loving sacrifice of himself for his cause. This dynamic of converting the opponent by one´s own nonviolent suffering was at the heart of the liberation strategies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among many others who have spoken truth to power and have accepted the resultant persecution out of love for all people.

One of many examples of Dr. King´s understanding of this method is found in his speech at the University of California at Berkeley on June 4, 1957: “The nonviolent resister does not seek to humiliate or defeat the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding. Our aim is not to defeat the white community, not to humiliate the white community, but to win the friendship of all of the persons who had perpetrated this system in the past. The end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community. A boycott is never an end within itself. It is merely a means to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor but the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption.”

The soldier who pierced the body of Jesus with his lance (longche in Greek), named Longinus in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, "is said to have destroyed idols with a nearby axe in the presence of the governor who was trying him." (7)

He is also represented in the basilica's museum which displays a relic of him. Martyred in his native Cappadocia, his body is venerated in Rome in the Church of St. Augustine. (8)

The museum of the basilica, replete with gold chalices and monstrances, also shows an ancient torture instrument used against Christian prisoners‑‑a kind of large pair of pliers with sharp teeth to cut or cut off any body part which it may entrap.

Just before exiting the museum, one notices a graceful sculpture of the Risen Christ, as if to remind us that our faith is not centered in ancient or medieval gold pieces but in Jesus who died as a tortured martyr and rose to be with us today as we live the gospel of love and work for a future of greater justice.

The necessity and magnitude of that task is underlined by the sight of increased security measures around the basilica since September 11; visitors line up to be frisked by police with electronic wands before entering. Beggars at church doors throughout Rome also make it hard to shut out the real world.

Church as Museum or Body of the Risen Lord?

Europe has a rich past. Ancient, medieval, and Renaissance churches and other buildings are evidence of artistic creativity and enormous work. Museums are fascinating and inspiring.

But the challenge today is to incarnate the gospel in our world, as previous generations did in theirs. The Christ who is celebrated in cathedrals, statues and paintings can become our friend, teacher, and companion today as we come to know him in Scripture, in the Christian community, in the poor, and in the struggle for justice and peace. The martyrs and other saints inspire us to follow Jesus in our own way today.

Fr. Mulligan, a Jesuit from Detroit, works in Nicaragua with the Christian base communities. He is the author of The Nicaraguan Church and the Revolution (1991) and The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador–Celebrating the Anniversaries (1994). For more information about the case of Fr. James Carney, who disappeared in Honduras in 1983, please contact Mulligan at mull@ibw.com.ni


(1) The leaflet continued: "The Ghetto area was very small, surrounded by a wall with five gates, and living conditions were very unhealthy with constant flooding in winter. The Jews were allowed to leave the Ghetto during the daytime but were required to wear Jewish insignia. Only two professions were permitted: money lending and selling used clothing.

"The Jews were emancipated and obtained full citizenship after 1870 when Italy was unified. The Ghetto was abolished and the Jews remained full citizens until 1938 when the anti‑Semitic and discriminatory Italian Racial Laws were adopted. During the German occupation (September 1943 until June 1944), 2091 Jews were deported to extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz. Only 16 survived the camps. In 1944 in the caves outside of Rome (Fosse Ardeatine), the Germans massacred 335 Italians, including 75 Jews."

(2) For instance, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, after teaching his disciples the New Covenant way of life, Jesus severely rebukes those who prophesied, exorcised, and performed “many miracles” in his name but who did not put his Way into practice in their lives. “You can tell a tree by its fruit. None of those who cry out `Lord, Lord,´ will enter the kingdom of God but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.... `Did we not do many miracles in your name?´ Then I will declare to them solemnly, `I never knew you. Out of my sight, you evildoers!´ Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock....” (Mt 7:20-24)

Earlier, in the temptations in the desert, Jesus rejected the strategy of using power and of resorting to spectacular shows of his divinity (Mt 4:1-11). Rather, he would conquer people´s hearts by his gentle love and clear message of life.

In driving the money-changers out of the temple, Jesus gave a dramatic sign not of his divine power but of his zeal for his Father´s house, naturally provoking the wrath of the temple authorities. When they asked him for a sign showing his authority to do such things, he said that the temple (of his body) would be raised up. Thus the resurrection, accepted in faith, is the vindication of Jesus as God´s prophet (Jn 2:13-22).

As for minor miracles, Jesus put them in their place just after this cleansing of the temple. “Many believed in his name, for they could see the signs he was performing. For his part, Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all. He needed no one to give him testimony about human nature. He was well aware of what was in man´s heart” (Jn 2:23-25).

(3) The Book of Saints, by the Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate (NY: Macmillan, 1942).

(4) Ibid. A more complete explanation is found in "Saints O' the Day" on the webpage of St. Patrick's Church, Washington, D.C.:

In 303, Emperor Diocletian issued a decree making it an offense punishable by death to possess any portion of sacred Christian writings. Irene and her sisters, Agape and Chionia, daughters of pagan parents living in Salonika, owned several volumes of Holy Scriptures, which they hid. This made the girls very unhappy because they could not read them at all hours as was their wont.

The sisters were arrested on another charge‑‑that of refusing to eat food that had been offered to the gods‑‑and taken before the governor, Dulcetius (Dulcitius).

Thus, Chionia and Agape were condemned to be burned alive, but, because of her youth, Irene was to be imprisoned. After the execution of her older sisters, their house had been searched and the forbidden volumes discovered. Irene was examined again:

Dulcitius: "Notwithstanding your crime, you may find pardon and be freed from punishment, if you will yet worship the gods. What say you then? Will you obey the orders of the emperors? Are you ready to sacrifice to the gods, and eat of the victims?"

Irene: "By no means: for those that renounce Jesus Christ, the Son of God, are threatened with eternal fire."

Dulcitius: "Who persuaded you to conceal those books and papers so long?"

Irene: "Almighty God, who has commanded us to love Him even unto death; on which account we dare not betray Him, but rather choose to be burnt alive, or suffer any thing whatsoever than discover such writings."

Dulcitius: "Who knew that those writings were in the house?"

Irene: "Nobody but the Almighty, from Whom nothing is hid: for we concealed them even from our own domestics, lest they should accuse us."

During the questioning Irene told him that when the emperor's decree against Christians was published, she and others fled to the mountains without her father's knowledge. She avoided implicating those who had helped them, and declared that nobody but themselves know they had the books.

So, after again refusing a last chance to conform, she was sentenced to death. She died either by being forced to throw herself into flames or, more likely, by being shot in the throat with an arrow. The books, including the Sacred Scripture, were publicly burned. 

(5) Elizabeth A. Johnson continues: "The historical form of Christ may be male or female, christa or christus, but the underlying sacramentality between crucified persons and Jesus Christ is identical. The form of the sister is the form of Christ: in the free giving of their lives through participation in the Spirit women are recognized to be christomorphic in the most profound way." She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad, 1994). The author emphasizes that the risen Christ today is made up of all the members, male and female.

And yet, just a few miles from the catacombs, men in power claim that women cannot be priests because anatomically they cannot show forth the image of Christ.

(6) Fast´s Spartacus, giving voice to the novelist´s own vision of anti-imperialist struggle, speaks of victory, of bringing the oppressors to justice, and of the construction of a fraternal society. “... you kill for the sake of killing, and your gentle amusement is to watch blood flow. You put little children into your mines [to reach the smallest crevices] and work them to death in a few months. And you have built your grandeur by being a thief to the whole world. Well, it is finished. Tell your Senate that it is all finished.... To the slaves of the world, we will cry out, Rise up and cast off your chains! We will move through Italy, and wherever we go, the slaves will join us–and then, one day, we will come against your eternal city. It will not be eternal then.

“... then we will tear down the walls of Rome. Then we will come to the house where your Senate sits, and we will drag them out of their high and mighty seats and we will tear off their robes so that they may stand naked and be judged as we have always been judged. But we will judge them fairly and we will hand them a full measure of justice. Every crime they have committed will be held against them, and they will make a full accounting....

“When justice has been done, we will build better cities, clean, beautiful cities without walls–where mankind can live together in peace and in happiness. There is the whole message for the Senate. Bear it to them. Tell them it comes from a slave called Spartacus....”

Over a century and a half later, native resisters against the Roman empire were still denouncing its avarice and arrogance. In AD 80 Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Governor of the Roman province of Britannia, decided to invade the north of his territory and to subdue the tribes of Scotland. Around the year AD 84, the battle of Mons Graupius was fought. Calgacus, a local tribal leader, had united the tribes against the Romans. The battle was described by Agricola's son‑in‑law, the Roman senator and historian Tacitus, who imagined the speech Calgacus made to his men as follows:

“Battles against Rome have been lost and won before, but hope was never abandoned, since we were always here in reserve. We, the choicest flower of Britain's manhood, were hidden away in her most secret places. Out of sight of subject shores, we kept even our eyes free from the defilement of tyranny. We, the most distant dwellers upon earth, the last of the free, have been shielded till today by our very remoteness and by the obscurity in which it has shrouded our name. Now, the farthest bounds of Britain lie open to our enemies; and what men know nothing about they always assume to be a valuable prize....

“A rich enemy excites their cupidity; a poor one, their lust for power. East and West alike have failed to satisfy them. They are the only people on earth to whose covetousness both riches and poverty are equally tempting. To robbery, butchery and rapine, they give the lying name of 'government'; they create a desolation and call it peace.....” Or liberation?

Like Spartacus, Calgacus was defeated by Roman might, but the resistance continued. See Scots For Independence at : http://www.angelfire.com/sc2/scotsforindependence/history/calgacus.html & nbsp;  

(7) "Saints O' the Day," on webpage of St. Patrick's Church, Washington, D.C.

(8) The Book of Saints.

Joe Mulligan is a Detroit Province Jesuit and a longtime missionary in Central America. He has been on a personal crusade -- to find out what really happened to Father James Carney, the American priest who disappeared in Honduras in 1983 after entering that country as a chaplain to a group of Honduran insurgents.