Saint of the Day – 13 March – Saint Roderick (Died 857) Priest and Martyr of Córdoba. Born as Rodrigo in 9th century southern Spain and died by beheading in 857 in Cordoba, Spain. He is also known as Rodriguez, Rudericus, Roderic, Ruderic. The Roman Martyrology lists him, together with Solomon, under the Latin name of Rudericus in the list for today.
Roderick was a Priest from Cordoba, in Andalusia, a region that had been part of the kingdom of the Visigoths of Spain.
He found himself in a not uncommon situation in that territory, then under Arab rule – one of his brothers had remained a Christian and the other had become a Muslim. And he, Roderick, would die at the hands of the Arabs, so that he is usually depicted with the vestments of a Priest and with the palm of the Martyrs.
But, it is not a question of the uusal form of persecution in this case. At the time, the region saw Muslims, Christians and Jews co-exist quite peacefully. Roderick became the victim of family and fraternal disagreements and violence.
The Muslim brother reproached the third brother for his “obstinacy” in remaining a Christian. Roderick tried to make peace between the two but without success.
One day, in fact, Roderick found the two in a physical battle with each other. When he tried to divide them, as is often the case, they both turned on him and began beating him. He collapsed unconscious under their blows. At that point, the Muslim brother took him away on a cart – he seemed dead – and to the amazed people, he gave a lying explanation – he said that Rodrigo was seriously ill and that, feeling death close, he too became a Muslim.
The rumour spread but Roderick, upon his recovery, was unaware of this slander. Healed, he returned to Cordoba in his priestly garb and his brother-accuser, dragged him to the Muslim judge saying – “This one had become a follower of Islam and now he has returned to Christianity, he has betrayed our faith.” This accusation would be regarded as apostasy under Sharia law and would incur the death penalty!
The judge tried to help Roderick save himself, even suggesting a declaration of fidelity to Islam, which would set him free immediately, without asking him for specific commitments on the practice of the Muslim faith. But Roderick maintained his loyalty and refused to deny Christ and His Church, instead, choosing rather to die. We presume he denied the lies told by his brother but there is no account of this. The reluctant judge, then sentenced him to death, at the insistence of that brother. Fratricide, more than persecution.
Roderick was then put to death with another Christian named Solomon, convicted for the same reason. Thrown into the Guadalquivir river, the bodies were recovered by the Christians, who buried Roderick in the Basilica of San Genesio, near Cordova and Solomon, in the nearby Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian.
For both, holiness was proclaimed immediately, from below. The festival has been celebrated since 1581, today, 13 March.
St Roderick’s Convent and Hospital in Cabra, established in the 16th century, bears his name.