Happy soul! she shall discover
What joy, what bliss,
How many heavens at once it is,
To have a God become her Lover!
Today, December 24, we celebrate the feast day of Saints Emiliana and Tarsilla (died sixth century), Virgins of the Church, and aunts of Saint Gregory the Great. What we know of their lives was recorded by the holy pope, who was deeply moved by their model of Christian life and virtue.
Born in Rome, Emiliana and Tarsilla were the daughters of senator Gordian and Saint Silvia. Nieces of Pope Saint Felix III, the young women were destined for lives of holiness, and together, while quite young, renounced the world. As young women, they together consecrated themselves to the Lord, desiring to stay pure. Their house was as a convent, and the two spent so much time kneeling in prayer that their knees and elbows arthritically locked in the position of prayer. Living as hermits, they encouraged one another in the ways of the faith, drawing deeper and deeper into the spiritual life.
Tarsilla and Emiliana had a third sister, Gordiana, who had initially made the same vows and consecrated herself to the Lord. Gradually, however, she withdrew from her sisters, returning to the world. Their reproaches fell on deaf ears, and caused them significant sadness and grief.
“Come, I will receive you into this habitation of light.” Immediately, she fell ill with fever. Her sister ministered to her, but to no avail. By the following day, her illness had grown worse. Saint Tarsilla, in agonizing pain, called out to those around her; “Make way! Jesus is coming!” With her eyes fixed firmly on heaven, she died soon thereafter, and a heavenly fragrance filled the room, confirming her visions.
Saint Emiliana was deeply saddened, made more difficult by missing her sister on Christmas. Emiliana received consolation in the form of a vision of her sister, however. In this vision, Tarsilla encouraged, “My sister, come! I did not celebrate with you the birth of the Lord, but together we will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany.”
“If you call only me,” Emiliana replied, “what will become of our sister, Gordiana?”
“Come,” Tarsilla sadly answered. “Our sister has decided to remain with the world.”
Soon thereafter, Saint Emiliana fell ill, and promptly joined her sister in heaven. Their relics are kept at the Oratory of Saint Andrew on the Celian Hill in Rome.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great recounted the tale of his aunts throughout his lifetime. He used it to illustrate the point that we must work constantly to save our souls, repenting for our actions. To Saint Gregory, there is no point in beginning the work of salvation, if we do not plan to see it through to the end. As we prepare for the birth of Our Lord, we look to our own commitments. Are we ready to greet the infant Christ, come to redeem and save us?
Tonight, we echo the sentiment of Saint Tarsilla: "Make way! Jesus is coming!" How might we use this dark night—lit by the choirs of angels—to prepare for the coming of the Lord?
Day 358 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Preparation to greet Our Lord.
Requested Intentions: Successful completion of nursing exam (M); For a daughter in an abusive relationships (J); For the consecration of a granddaughter to Our Blessed Mother (A); For a successful marriage (S); Restoration of a teaching job (L); Health and spirituality of family members (R); For a return to health for a friend (C); Healing from cancer of a brother-in-law (C); Healthy relationship; Joy in everyday life (J); Successful employment and financial assistance for education (M); For the return home of father and husband suffering from mental illness (C); Successful passing of examination; Employment for Son (J); Healing of a family and son (S); Successful marriage (G); End to husband’s addictions; Son’s employment (M); Freedom from financial burdens (M); Healing after a miscarriage (E); For healing of friend; successful resolution of legal matter (A); Complete healing of a friend with pancreatic cancer (J); Healing of a father following stroke (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."