Saturday, November 18, 2017

Female Martyrs of the 2nd Century

Zenaida and Philonella were cousins of Saint Paul who were born into a wealthy Jewish family.  Paul instructed them in the Christian faith and they chose to devote themselves to the study of medicine.  After completing their studies they moved to a place in the mountains near Demetriada (Greece) that was renowned for its healing springs. Opposed to the prevailing custom of charging exorbitant sums for healing, they opened a clinic to treat all who came to them regardless of their ability to pay.  Philonella practiced experimental medicine very similar to modern scientific methods, and Zenaida specialized in pediatrics and psychiatric medicine including clinical depression.  They were stoned to death near the cave where they practiced medicine around 100 CE.

Eudokia, a wealthy Samarian woman, lived in Phoenicia (present day Lebanon) where she learned about Christianity from a monk who directed her discernment to the call to the Christian faith.  After fasting and praying in her chamber for a week, she asked to be baptized and dedicated her substantial fortune to build a monastery and hospice near Heliopolis where many pagans were converted to Christianity.  She was arrested and beheaded in 107 CE.

Pudentiana and Praxedes (Praxedis) were the granddaughters of the Roman Senator Quintus Cornelius Pudens.  Their father Pudens was a friend of Saint Peter who baptized him and his daughters and sons.  Their father was martyred along with Saints Peter and Paul.  Pudentiana and Praxedes built a church with a baptistery inside their father's house where the two of them converted many pagans, baptized them and instructed them in the faith.  They buried the bodies of martyrs and distributed their goods to the poor until their own martyrdom in 112 CE.  Pudentiana and Praxedes were buried next to their father, and their relics were transferred centuries later to the Basilica of Saint Praxedes.

Balbina, the daughter of a pagan tribune who had imprisoned Pope Alexander I, suffered from a disfiguring goiter.  Having witnessed the miracle of the chains falling from the pope's arms when he refused to recant the faith, her father brought his daughter to him for healing.  Pope Alexander I told her to kiss the chains of Saint Peter.  When she did, her goiter was healed.  Her father released the Pope from prison, and he and his whole family were baptized.  They and Pope Alexander I were beheaded together in 116 CE.  Their remains were buried in the catacombs on the Via Appia and later moved to the basilica of Santa Balbina built in her honor.

Hermione was the daughter of Philip the Deacon.  A disciple of Paul in Asia Minor taught her the healing arts and she built a hospice where she converted many to Christianity. She performed many miracles of healing until she was arrested and brought to trial.  She was beaten and the soles of her feet were pierced with nails.  She was thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar and roasted in a large skillet, but she managed to survive.  Two servants were ordered to take her outside the city and behead her.  Instead they were so moved by her courage, they prayed to be baptized and to die before her.  She baptized them and they lived in exile until the two servants died.  Hermione followed them in death in 117 CE.
Sabina and Serapia (Seraphia or Seraphima) was born at Antioch to Christian parents. After the death of her parents, Serapia sold herself into service to a Roman widow named Sabina.  Through Serapia’s pious example Sabina was converted to Christianity.  For converting Sabina, Serapia was arrested and handed over to two men who tried to rape her.  She was imprisoned and resisted several more attempts on her life before finally being beheaded by sword in 119 CE. Sabina rescued her martyred servant’s remains and had them interred in the family mausoleum.  Then she also was taken captive as a Christian.  She tried to escape, but was captured and martyred in Umbria, Italy in 126 CE.  Centuries later her relics were brought back to the Basilica of Santa Sabina built on the site of her family home on the Aventine Hill.

Theodora was the sister of a Christian martyr whom she cared for while he was in prison.  She followed her brother in martyrdom and was buried beside him on the Via Salaria outside of Rome in 120 CE.

Zoe was married to a Christian slave named Exuperius.  They were killed along with their sons for refusing to participate in pagan birth rituals in 127 CE.

Ariadne, a servant of a city official in Promyssia (Phrygia) during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, refused to make the sacrificial offering to the pagan gods on the occasion of her son’s birth.  For this she was imprisoned, tortured and sent into exile.  Guards were sent to capture and behead her, but she prayed and God saved her by opening a chasm in the mountain entombing her alive within it in 130 CE.

Olivia (or Oliva) was martyred under the Emperor Hadrian in 138 CE.  Little is known about her life and the manner of her death, but her relics are venerated at Saint Afra's Church in Brescia, Italy.

Mariña and Liberata were part of a set of octuplets born to the wife of the pagan governor of Hispana Lusitania (modern day Portugal).  A multiple birth was suspected by the pagans to be a sign of marital infidelity.  Fearing repudiation their mother ordered her servants to drown the babies in the river before her husband saw them.  Instead they gave them to Christian families who raised them as their own and baptized them.  The girls were exposed as Christians when they refused to participate in the pagan sacrifices and were beheaded in 139 CE.  Liberata’s remains are venerated in the Cathedral of Sigüenza, Spain. According to legend a spring of water miraculously gushed forth from the ground where Mariña’s head fell and a church was built on the spot in her honor and named Santa Mariña de Aguas Santas.

Felicitas was a pious wealthy Christian widow with seven sons. She devoted herself to charitable work and converted many to the Christian faith by her example. Her piety aroused the suspicion of pagan priests who lodged a complaint against her with the Emperor.  Despite many pleas and threats, she and her sons refused to worship the pagan gods and were arrested and tortured.  Felicitas implored the guards not to kill her first, so that she could encourage them during their torture.  Her seven sons were all tortured and killed in her presence before she was beheaded in 164 CE.  The remains of Felicitas and her sons who all remained loyal to the faith were buried in the catacombs on the Via Salaria now named the Catacombs of Saint Felicitas in her honor.

Corona (Stephania/Stephana) was the sixteen-year-old spouse of a Roman Christian who was exposed as a Christian and imprisoned.  When she came to console her husband in prison, the guards bound her body to two bent palm trees and tore it asunder by releasing the tree trunks.  She and her husband were both martyred in 170 CE.  Their relics were moved to a church erected in their memory in the town of Feltre on the slopes of Mount Miesna.

Blandina (Blandine) was a slave who was arrested and suffered martyrdom along with her Christian master under the reign of Marcus Aurelius.  Roman citizens who persisted in the faith were executed by beheading, but those without citizenship were tortured to death.  Blandina was bound to a stake with wild beasts set upon her, then scourged, placed on a red-hot grate, and thrown before a wild steer who tossed her into the air with his horns.  Having survived all these tortures, Blandina was put to death with a dagger in 177 CE.

Glyceria was the daughter of a Roman Senator in Trajanopolis, in Greece, who was exposed as a Christian when she refused to pay tribute to Jupiter and destroyed his statue in the temple.  She was arrested and sentenced to be torn apart by wild animals, but she died of starvation before the animals could harm her in 177 CE.