Monday, January 30, 2012

St. Martina

Today in the Traditional Roman Calendar is the Feast Day of St. Martina, Virgin and Martyr, who died around 226 A.D.  Martyrdom is a strange phenomena, something very alien to our culture, which prizes comfort and pleasant physical sensations and avoids any kind of pain at all costs.  St. Martina came from a rich family and had all the comforts life could offer in the 3rd Century.  But she gave it all up for her love of her Creator, and underwent extreme torture.  Because she was so willing to do this, she helped bring many people to repentance and saved many souls. 

According to the Breviary, here is her biography:

Martina was a maiden of a most illustrious Roman family, daughter of a Consul. She lost her parents while still very young, and, being inflamed with Christian zeal, she distributed her wealth, whereof she had abundance, with great profusion among the poor. Under the Emperor Alexander, she was commanded to sacrifice to the imaginary gods, and refused with much boldness to commit this great wickedness. Upon this she was again and again scourged, and mangled with iron prongs and hooks, and pieces of broken pottery. Her limbs were cut piece by piece with sharp swords, and boiling tallow poured upon the living trunk. Lastly she was sent to be eaten publicly by the wild beasts in the amphitheatre, but by the will of God they would not touch her, and she was then thrown upon a burning pile, but still remained alive.

Some of her tormentors were so moved by the spectacle, that they repented, and, by the grace of God confessing the faith of Christ, through which she remained constant, were themselves tortured and beheaded. Martina herself lay praying, with a brightness on her face, while a matter like milk oozed from her body along with the blood, emitting a soft, sweet smell. She was as it were unconscious of an earthquake and most violent thunderstorm which arose and was raging, and while the lightning struck temples, and melted statues, she seemed in spirit rather to be seated above on a queenly throne, praising God in heaven among the Blessed.

The judge being infuriated at what had taken place, and chiefly at her unbending firmness, ordered the head of the martyr to be cut off. At the moment this was done, a peal which shook the city was heard, like a voice calling her home, and so great was the consternation, that it was made the means of conversion to many idolaters. The holy body of Martina wherein she had suffered in the Pontificate of Urban I, was discovered in the time of Urban VIII, in the very old Church called after her, situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, near the Mamertine Prison, along with the bodies of the holy martyrs Concordius, Epiphanius, and others. The Church was then altered and restored and handsomely decorated, and then the body was replaced in it, amid public rejoicings, with a solemn ceremony and procession.

I feel completely inadequate when I read biographies such as these.  It is hard to imagine accepting all of this suffering and then, on top of it all, being joyful and thankful.  The reason these great saints were able to do this is first, of course, the Grace of God.  But also, the great saints realized the futility of this life.  They knew that the only thing of any importance is to obey God, because that is all that will last.

I know it in my head.  I'm still struggling to convince my heart.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. 

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