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Martyrdom of Neanias of Jerusalem
Catholics know him as St. Procopius (Proconius)

Martyr and the first victim of the persecution of the Church in Palestine by Emperor Diocletian

On July 8th, of the year 303 A.D., Neanias  was martyred. He was born in the city of Jerusalem with the name Neanias, his father was a Christian whose name was Christophorus, which means Bearer of Christ. His mother's name was Theodosia, and she was a worshipper of idols. After his father's death, his mother brought him up entirely in the spirit of Roman idolatry. When he had grown up, the Emperor Diocletian saw him and was so pleased with him that he took him to court to serve in the army. When this wicked Emperor launched a persecution of Christians, he ordered Neanias to go with a detachment of soldiers to Alexandria and exterminate the Christians there. But on the road something happened to Neanias that was similar to what happened to Saul.  At three o'clock in the morning there was a violent earthquake, the Lord Jesus appearing to him and saying, "Neanias, where are you going, and against whom are you rebelling?" In great fear, Neanias replied, "Who are you, Lord? I cannot recognize You." Then a brilliant Cross, as of crystal, appeared in the sky and a voice came from the Cross, "I am Jesus, the crucified Son of God. By this sign that you have seen, overcome your enemies, and My peace will be with you." This event utterly changed Neanias's life. He caused a cross such as he had seen to be made, and instead of moving against the Christians, set off with his soldiers against the Agarians (Arabs), who were attacking Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem victorious and told his mother that he was a Christian.

On his way to Alexandria, some of the bedouins attacked him to plunder whatever he had. But he overcame them by the cross that he had. His mother told him, You must offer sacrifices to the gods who delivered you from your enemies. Neanias replied, Rather, I will offer the sacrifice to Jesus Christ, Who helped me by the power of His cross. When his mother heard his words, she became angry, and sent to Diocletian to inform him about that. The Emperor sent to the Governor of Caesarea, Palestine, to investigate the matter, and to handle his torture. When the Governor brought him, Neanias confessed his faith in the Lord Christ. The governor beat him so severely that he was close to death, then he cast him in prison. The Lord Jesus appeared to him, surrounded by His angels, released him from his bonds, and healed his wounds. The next morning, the Governor asked about the Saint, and they told him that they found him free and sound. He had him brought to the temple of the idols, where the Governor was going to pray. When the people saw him whole, they all marveled, and they all cried out in the name of Christ saying, We are Christians, and we believe in the God of Neanias. Among them were two prefects and twelve women and his mother (known as St Theodosia). They cut off their heads, and they received the crown of martyrdom. That was on the sixth day of the month of Abib at Caesarea, in Palestine.

The Governor ordered the return of the Saint to prison, until he could determine what to do with him. He brought him back three days later and told him, Behold, I have waited three days for you to return to your mind, to have mercy on yourself, and to offer sacrifice for the gods. Neanias replied, The Lord Christ is the only true God. As for these statues, which are made of stone and wood, they are not gods and can neither harm nor help. The Governor became angry and ordered the soldiers to cut his sides with swords. A swordsman, whose name was Archelaus, stretched out his hand to cut the sides of Neanias, whereupon his hand dried up, and fell down dead. The Governor ordered to stab him with knives and pour vinegar in his wounds. Then they dragged him by his feet to the prison, where he stayed for three days. The Governor was wondering what he should do with him. Then he threw him into a pit filled with fire, but the Lord delivered him and no harm came upon him. Finally, the Governor ordered to cut off his head and he received the crown of martyrdom. When Neanias was led to the scaffold, he raised his hands towards the East and prayed to God for all the poor and needy, the destitute and the widowed, and especially for the holy Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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