Pelagia the Virgin Martyr of Antioch and Pelagia the Penitent. Over the years, the lives of these Pelagias have become entwined and confused by oral tradition. There were at least two Pelagias, both from Antioch, Syria. Today, we take lessons from both their lives.Today, October 8, we celebrate the feast day of two Saint Pelagias:
The first Pelagia was a young virgin martyr in the fourth century. Committed to maintaining her virginity for Christ, Saint Pelagia was prepared for the Diocletian persecution when it reached Antioch. At fifteen years of age, soldiers came in search of her, in order to force her to publicly offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. She was alone in the house, and unable to defend herself. She politely asked the soldiers what was to become of her, and upon hearing that she was sentenced to execution, begged permission to return inside her home to put on more modest clothing. Overcome by her resolute courage, the solders allowed her the privilege.
Knowing what lie ahead of her, including her defilement at the hands of the soldiers, the holy virgin was not willing to expose herself to danger of being dishonored. Instead, she therefore went up to the roof of the house and threw herself into the sea. Thus she died, as Saint John Chrysostom says, a virgin and a martyr, and was honored as such by the Church of Antioch. Of Pelagia, the Virgin Martyr, Saint John Chrysostom delivered the following sermon:
"Even women now poke fun at death and girls mock passing away and quite young, unmarried virgins skip into the very stings of Hades and suffer no ill effects. All of these blessings we experience because of Christ, born of a virgin. For after those blessed contraction pains and utterly awe-inspiring birth the sinews of death were unstrung, the devil's power was disabled and from then on became contemptible to not just men but also women, and not just women, but also girls....
"It's for this reason that blessed Pelagia too ran to meet death with such great delight that she didn't wait for the executioners' hands nor did she go to court, but escaped their cruelty through the excess of her own enthusiasm. For while she was prepared for tortures and punishments and every kind of penalty, even so she was afraid that she would destroy the crown of her virginity. Indeed, that you might learn that she was afraid of the sexual predation of the unholy men, she got in first and snatched herself away in advance from the shameful violence. None of the [Christian] men ever attempted any such act at all. Instead they all filed into court and displayed their courage there. Yet women, by nature vulnerable to harm, conceived for themselves this manner of death. My point is that, were it possible both to preserve one's virginity and attain martyrdom's crown, she wouldn't have refused to go to court. But since it was utterly inevitable that one of the two would be lost, she thought it a sign of extreme stupidity, when it was possible for her to attain each victory, to depart half crowned. For this reason she wasn't willing to go to court or to become a spectacle for lecherous eyes, or to give opportunity for predatory eyes to revel in the sight of her own appearance and crudely insult that holy body. Instead she went from her chamber and the women's quarters to a second chamber - heaven....
"Don't simply pass over what happened, but consider how it's likely that she was raised as a gentle girl, knowing nothing beyond her chamber, while soldiers were posted against her en masse, standing in front of the door, summoning her to court, dragging her into the marketplace on weighty sorts of grounds. There was no father inside, no mother present, no nurse, no female attendant, no neighbor, no female friend. Instead, she was left alone in the midst of those executioners. I mean, how isn't it right that we be astonished and amazed that she had the strength to come out and answer those executioner soldiers, to open her mouth and utter a sound, just to look, stand, and breathe? Those actions weren't attributable to human nature. For God's influence introduced the majority. Most assuredly, at the time she didn't just idly stand around, but displayed all her personal qualities - her enthusiasm, her resolve, her nobility, her willingness, her purpose, her eagerness, her bustling energy. But it was as a result of God's help and heavenly good goodwill that all these qualities reached maturity....
"In addition to what's been said, I marvel as well at how the soldiers granted her the favor, how the woman deceived the men, how they didn't work out the deception. After all, one can't say that no one effected anything of the sort. For many women, it seems, gave themselves up to a cliff or hurled themselves into the sea or drove a sword through their breast or fastened a noose. That time was full of numerous dramas of that kind. But God blinded the soldier's hearts so that they wouldn't openly see the deception. That's why she flew up out of the middle of their nets....
At the height of her popularity, she and some friends were passing by the Basilica of Saint Julian in Antioch where Bishop Nonnus was preaching. Pelagia was reclining in a litter and was provocatively dressed; her head and shoulders were uncovered at a time when women were to be veiled in public. The group of bishops who were gathered outside were shocked by the sight of her and turned away, except for Bishop Nonnus who looked at her for a long time. Bishop Nonnus then turned to the other bishops and asked, "Did not the sight of her great beauty delight you?"
"Holy father, be merciful to me, a sinner; baptize me, and teach me repentance. I am a sea of iniquity, an abyss of destruction, a net and weapon of the devil." Upon questioning, Pelagia explained that her father and mother named her Pelagia, but that the people of Antioch called her Margarita, (which means pearl) for she was the “devil's jewel.”
Bishop Nonnus found a woman to act as her godmother and then exorcised and baptized her. A few days later Pelagia arranged to give all her wealth and possessions to the bishop. He handed all the wealth over to the treasurer of the church in Antioch, telling him to use it for widows and orphans, not for the church, because it was tainted money.
Day 281 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Lives of true conversion and repentance.
Requested Intentions: Successful outcome of court case and employment (L); For guidance and righteous love (K); Restoration of a relationship (H); For successful employment (I); For a daughter’s successful relationship (M); For a relationship sanctified by God (M); For health of father; For canonization of Pope John Paul II (A); For the conversion of a family (L); For the ill (A); For the health of a family (I); For a father’s successful surgery and recovery (G); For those who are ill, and their caretakers (D); For the safety of a sister who is traveling (A); Recovery of mother with cancer (R); Successful acquisition of a visa (T); Restoration of a marriage (A); For employment and health of mother (G); Successful employment (M); Restoration of a family, End to brother's addiction, Successful marriage (R); Employment (I); Successful recovery of a mother; for all stroke victims (D); Successful return to the faith (A); Emotional, physical, and financial healing (D); Diagnosis and recovery (A); For a successful relationship (J); Those suffering from depression (J); Successful adoption (S); Healing of a father battling cancer (S).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."