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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/823

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NEREUS


751


NEREUS


ophy for cif;ht, years, he w as :tl'terwards employed in tlu' government. In KiT'.l lie was made superior at Nantes; in 10S4 rector at Vannes; in 1694 and 1700 rector at Orleans; iu 1097 at Rouen; in 1704atRennes where he was director of retreats until his death, 17 February, 1708. Father Nepveu, described as a man of great zeal and intelligence, wrote voluminously on aseetical subjects, and some of his worlcs liave gone through many editions, having been translated into various languages. Among his more important works are numbered the following: "De I'amour de Notre Seigneur Jesus-Christ, et des Moyens de I'acqu^rir" (Nantes, 1684), has gone through no less than four- teen editions in France, selections from it were printed in the "Petite Bibliotheriue Chretienne", issued by A. Vromont, Brussels, 1S93, and it has been trans- lated into German, Italian (six editions), Spanish, Flemish, Polish, and Enghsh, ed. by the Rev. Henry J. Coleridge, S.J. and issued by Burns and Gates, 1869; " Retraite selon I'esprit et la methode de Saint Ignace " ( Paris, 1 677, 514pp.), also numbers fourteen editions of the original and translations have been made into Ger- man, Spanisli, Flemish, Italian, and six editions in Latin; "Mediodi' facile d'oraison,reduite en pratique" (Nantes), went through more than twelve editions in French and was several times issued in Spanish ; " Pen- s^es et Reflections Chretiennes pour tons les jours de I'anniSe" (4 vols., Paris, 109.5), had eighteen French editions, the latest by Guyot, Paris, 1850, 640 pp., and went througli s<iine eievenei litions in foreign languages ; "L'esprit du Christianisme ou la Conformity du Chretien avec Jesus-Christ" (Paris, 1700, 380 pp.), went through twenty-four editions, and three editions of extracts therefrom appeared in Belgium, also trans- lated into foreign languages, ten editions coming out in Italian. A full list of Father Nepveu's works, which numbered nearly a score, may be had in the authorities cited below.

SoMMERVOGEL, BihHuth^que de la Compagnie de JSsus, V, 1626; De B.^cker. Biblioth^que des Ecrivains de la Compagnie de JHus, first series, 509.

Edw.\ud F. G.^RESCHE.

Nereus and Achilleus, Domitilla and Pancra- tius, Saints and Mahtyrs. — The commemoration of these four Roman saints is made by the Church on 12 May, in common, and all four are named in the Proper of the Mass as martyrs. The old Roman lists, of the fifth century, and which passed over into the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, contained the names of the two martyrs Nereus and Achilleus, whose grave was in the Catacomb of Domitilla on the Via Ardea- tina; in the same calendar was found the name of St. Pancratius, whose body rested in a catacomb of the Via Aurelia. The notice in the more complete ver- sion given by the Berne Codex, runs as follows: "IIII id. Maii, Roma; in coemeterio Pratextati natale Nerei et Achillei fratrum, et natale sci. Pancrati via Au- relia miliario secundo" (On 12 May at Rome in the cemetery of Prsetextatus [an evident error for Domitilla] the natal day of Nereus and Achilleus, and the natal day of St. Pancratius, on the Aurelian Way at the second milestone"; ed. de Rossi-Duchesne, Acta SS., Nov., II, [59] ). In the invocation of the Mass for their feast, in the "Sacramentarium Gelasi- anum", the names of Nereus and Achilleus alone are mentioned, and this is because only their invocation in the Mass was entered in the collection, the feast of St. Pancratius being celebrated in the church built over his grave on the Via Aurelia. In the Mass of his festival, the formula of which is unknown to us, his name, without doubt, was alone mentioned. In the fourth and following centuries there was celebrated on 12 May in both places, at the grave of Saints Nereus and Achilleus on the Via Ardeatina, and at that of St. Pancratius on the Via Aurelia, a special votive Mass. The Itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs, written in the seventh century, are


unanimous in their indication of the resting-place of these saints (de Rossi, "Roma sotterranea", I, 180- 83). The church which was erected in the fourth century over the grave of St. Pancratius, stands to- day in somewhat altered style. The legend describ- ing the martyrdom of the saint is of later origin, and not reliable historically; it is probable that he was put to death in the persecution of Valerian (257-58) or in that of Diocletian (304-06).

The church built over the grave of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus in the Via Ardeatina, is of the latter part of the fourth century; it is a three-naved basilica, and was discovered by de Rossi in the Catacomb of Domi- tilla. Amongst the numerous objects found in the ruins were two pillars which had supported the giborium ornamented with sculptures representing the death of the two saints by decapitation; one of these pillars is perfectly preserved, and the name of Achilleus is carved upon it. There was also found a large fragment of a marble slab, with an inscription composed by Pope Damasus, the text of which is well- known from an ancient copy. This oldest historical mention of the two saints (Weyman, "Vier Epi- gramme des hi. Papstes Damasus", Munich, 1905; de Rossi, "Inscriptiones christianre ", II, 31; Ihm, "Damasiepigrammata", Leipzig, 1895, 12, no. 8) tells how Nereus and Achilleus as soldiers were obedient to the tyrant, but suddenly being converted to Christian- ity, joyfully resigned their commission, and died the martyr's death; as to the date of their glorious con- fession we can make no inference. The acts of these martyrs, legendary even to a romantic degree, have no historical value for their life and death; they bring no fewer than thirteen different Roman martyrs into relation, amongst them even Simon Magus, according to the apocryphal Petrine Acts, and place their death in the end of the first and beginning of the second centuries. These Acts were written in Greek and Latin; according to Achelis (see below) the Greek was the original text, and written in Rome in the sixth century; Schaefer (.see below) on the other hand holds the Latin to have been the older version, and seeks to prove that it emanated from the first half of the fifth century; so remote a date is improbable, and the sixth century is to be preferred as the source of the Acts. According to these legends Nereus and Achilleus were eunuchs and chamberlains of Flavia Domitilla, a niece of the Emperor Domitian; with the Christian virgin they had been banished to the island of Pontia, and later on beheaded in Terracina. The graves of these two martyrs were on an estate of the Lady Domitilla near the Via Ardeatina, close to that of St. Petronilla.

The author of this legend places the two saints quite differently from Pope Damasus, in his poem: as Nereus and Achilleus were buried in a very ancient part of the catacomb of Domitilla, built as far back as the beginning of the second century, we may conclude that they are among the most ancient martyrs of the Roman Church, and stand in very near relation to the Flavian family, of which Domitilla, the foundress of the catacomb, was a member. In the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul mentions a Nereus with his sister, to whom he sends greetings (Rom., xvi, 15), perhaps even the martyr was a descendant of this disciple of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Owing to the purely legend- ary character of these Acts, we cannot use them as an argument to aid in the controversy as to whether there were two Christians of the name of Domitilla in the family of the Christian Flavian, or only one, the wife of the Consul Flavins Clemens (see Flavia Domi- tilla). As to other martyrs of the name Nereus, who are especially noted in the old martyrologies as mar- tyrs of the faith in Africa, or as being natives of that country (e. g., in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, 11 May, 15 or 16 October, 16 Nov.) though there is one of the name in the present Roman Martyrology under date of 16 Oct., nothing more is known.