Telemachus lived in a cloistered monastery, and unaccountably felt God calling him to go to Rome. He didn’t really want to go, but the impression was unmistakable, so he put his possessions in a sack and headed for Rome.
When he arrived, the city was in a great tumult. He inquired about all the excitement and was told that the gladiators would be fighting in the Coliseum that day. Hearing that, he was irresistibly drawn to the stadium.
As he entered, he heard what had become the traditional declamation of the gladiators.: “Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you.” When Telemachus realized what was about to happen, he knew why God had called him to Rome.
While the historical accounts vary somewhat, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs relates that Telemachus jumped the wall and went to the middle of the arena. He stood between two gladiators and said, “In the name of Christ, STOP!”
Some of the crowd began to shout, “Run him through!” One of the gladiators sent him sprawling in the sand with a blow from the back of the sword. However, Telemachus jumped to his feet and ran back between them saying, “In the name of Christ, STOP!”
The call from the crowd continued: “Run him through!” Another gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the little monk’s abdomen.
Telemachus crumpled to the ground, and as his blood turned the sand crimson, he weakly gasped out, “In the name of Christ, STOP!”
As the two gladiators stood looking at the now still form of the monk, a deadly silence fell over the Coliseum. Then a strange thing happened. In the silence, a man in one of the upper tiers came to his feet, stood still for a moment and then walked out. Another followed. All over the arena, people began to leave until at last the stadium was largely empty.
There may have been other forces at work, but the sacrificial death of that innocent man of God crystallized the opposition, and that was the last known gladiatorial contest in the Roman Coliseum.
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I, Peter, the Lord’s scribe and storyteller, have taken the story to heart and am “unaccountably” compelled to resurrect it once more. In fact, it has been resurrected over and over again. President Reagan told the story of the little monk at one of the Ecumenical Prayer breakfasts. May it be told and retold until all the Coliseums of the world are empty of spectators and filled with those who worship the Living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
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I would like to hear from anyone and everyone who is nauseated by combative and violent spectator sports and entertainment. And war is one of those. I would like to hear from those who no longer tithe their time or money to these forms of amusement and entertainment. Whether you vote for or against this story or choose not to vote at the moment, I would like to hear from you – please. I am asking others to walk and war and weep alongside of me.
May this story go viral through all who hear it, read it, see it and share it. Someone took the time to tell the story in a three minute video clip. If you click on these words you will be able to view it.