Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Barlaam, Martyr
AN obscure country life, which this saint had led from his childhood, in a village near Antioch, in manual labour, which he sanctified by a heroic spirit and practice of Christian piety, prepared him for the crown of martyrdom. Though he was a stranger to every other language but his mother-tongue, and to all learning, except that of the maxims of the gospel, he was an overmatch for the pride and tyranny of the masters of the world. His zealous confession of the name of Christ provoked the persecutors, who detained him a long time in the dungeons at Antioch before he was brought to his trial; during which rigorous confinement, in the simplicity of an upright heart, he continually entertained himself with God, so as to want no worldly company to relieve his mind, and God had embellished his soul with his choicest graces. When he was called to the bar, the judge laughed at his rustic language and mien; but, in spite of his prepossessions and rage, could not but admire exceedingly his greatness of soul, his virtue, and his meek constancy, which even gathered strength by his long imprisonment. He was cruelly scourged; but no sigh, no word of complaint was extorted from him. He was then hoisted on the rack, and his bones in many parts dislocated. Amidst these torments, such was the joy which was painted in his countenance, that one would have judged he had been seated at some delicious banquet, or on a throne. The prefect threatened him with death, and caused swords and axes fresh stained with the blood of martyrs to be displayed before him; but Barlaam beheld them without being daunted, and, without words, his meek and composed countenance spoke a language which confounded and disconcerted the persecutors. He was therefore remanded to prison, and the judge, who was ashamed to see himself vanquished by an illiterate peasant, studied to invent some new artifice or torment, resolving to revenge his gods, whom he thought injured by the saints constancy. At length he flattered himself that he had found out a method by which the martyr should be compelled, in spite of all his resolution, to offer sacrifice. Barlaam was brought out of prison, and an altar with burning coals upon it being made ready for sacrifice, the martyrs hand was forcibly held over the flames, and incense with live coals was laid upon it, that, if he shook the coals off his hand, he might be said to offer sacrifice by throwing the incense into the fire upon the altar. The saint, fearing the scandal and very shadow of the crime, though by throwing off the fire to save his hand, he could not be reasonably esteemed to have meant to sacrifice, kept his hand steady whilst the coals burnt quite through it, and so, with the incense, dropped upon the altar. At such an instance of fortitude the taunts and scoffs of the heathens were converted into admiration. God, soon after this victory, called his soldier to himself, to crown him with glory. This happened during the course of the persecution first raised by Dioclesian. See St. Basil, t. 2, p. 138; St. Chrysostom, t. 2, p. 681, in their panegyrics on this saint: his Greek acts in Lambecius, t. 8, p. 277; and a homily of Severus, patriarch of Antioch, extant in a Syriac manuscript, quoted Jos. Assemani, t. 1, Bibl. Orient. p. 571.