The Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste.
Under the Emperor Licinius, in 320, forty soldiers of the garrison of Sebaste, in Armenia, bore glorious testimony to Christ (Epistle). For refusing to sacrifice to idols, they were, out of hatred for the name of Jesus (Gospel), "thrown into prison and tortured in many ways" (Epistle). At last they were stripped of their clothes and exposed on a frozen pond. They asked God that the forty who entered the lists might be forty to win the crown, forty being the number consecrated by the fasts of Jesus, Moses and Elias". One of them, whose courage failed, threw himself into a bath of tepid water prepared near by and perished in it. But their guard, touched by grace from above, took his place, and there were forty martyrs. When they had expired, their bodies were carried away on chariots to be burned, all except the youngest, who was still alive and whom they hoped to pervert to the worship of the gods. But his mother, who above all was his mother in Christ (Communion) took him in her arms, followed the convoy, and when her son had breathed his last she laid him with those who were more than ever his brothers in Jesus (Gospel, Communion).
They were thus united in death as in life, and their souls entered heaven together. "How pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Gradual). The Communion, which alludes to this charity, is the same as that of the seven holy martyrs and their mother on July 10th.
Let us imitate the fortitude of these forty martyrs in the confession of their faith and not grow slack during the forty days of Lent.
Clamaverunt justi, et Dominus exaudivit eos: et ex omnibus tribulationibus eorum liberavit eos. * Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore: semper laus ejus in ore meo.
The just cried, and the Lord heard them; and delivered them out of all their troubles. * I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall be ever in my mouth.
(Psalm 33:18,2 from the Introit of Mass)
Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui gloriosos Martyres fortes in sua confessione cognovimus, pios apud te in nostra intercessione sentiamus.
Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that we, who acknowledge the boldness of thy glorious martyrs in confessing Thy name, may experience likewise their loving intercession for us.
From the Catholic Encyclopaedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06153a.htm