Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Felix, Bishop and Martyr
IN the beginning of Dioclesians persecution, great numbers among the Christians had the weakness to deliver up the sacred books into the hands of the persecutors that they might be burnt. Many even sought by false pretences to extenuate or excuse the enormity of this crime, as if it ever could be lawful to concur to a sacrilegious or impious action. Felix, bishop of Thiabara, in the proconsular Africa, was so far from being carried away by the torrent, that the scandals and falls of others were to him a spur to greater fear, watchfulness, constancy, and fortitude. Magnilian, curator or civil magistrate of that city, caused him to be apprehended, and commanded him to give up all books and writings belonging to his church, that they might be burnt. The martyr replied, it was better he himself should be burnt. This magistrate sent him to the proconsul at Carthage, by whom he was delivered over to the prefect of the prætorium, who was then in Africa. This supreme officer, offended at his bold and generous confession, commanded him to be loaded with heavier bolts and irons, and after he had kept him nine days in a close dungeon, to be put on board a vessel, saying he should stand his trial before the emperor. The bishop lay under the hatches in the ship between the horses feet four days without eating or drinking. The vessel arrived at Agrigentum in Sicily, and the saint was treated with great honour by the Christians of that island in all the cities through which he passed. When the prefect had brought him as far as Venosa in Apulia, he ordered his irons to be knocked off, and put to him again the questions whether he had the scriptures, and refused to deliver them up? The martyr would not purchase life with the least untruth, and answered, that he could not deny but he had the books, but that he would never give them up. The prefect, without more ado, condemned him to be beheaded. At the place of execution he cheerfully thanked God for all his mercies, and bowing down his head offered himself a sacrifice to him who lives for ever, in 303. He was fifty-six years old, and, at his death, declared that he had always preserved his virginity unspotted, and had zealously preached Christ and his truth. See his genuine acts in Baronius and Ruinart, p. 355.