26 July – St Parasceva of Rome
Also known as
14 November (translation of relics)
Virgin Martyr, Confessor. Born near Rome in the 2nd Century and died
by beheading in c 180. Patronage – invoked against blindness, healer
of the blind.
Parasceva was born in a village near Rome, likely during the reign of
the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138). Her parents, Agathon and Politia,
were Christians of Greek origin and had prayed for many years to have
a child. When Politia finally bore a child, she was born on a Friday,
the day of Our Lord’s suffering. They, therefore, named the baby girl
Parasceva, meaning “Friday” in Greek (literally “preparation (day)”
for the sabbath – cf. Mark 15:42). Parasceva grew up to be a devout
and well-read woman, who rejected many suitors.
After the death of her parents, she gave away all of her possessions
and became the head of a Christian community of young virgins and
widows. She also began to preach the Christian faith and at the age of
30, left Rome and ministered in many Towns and Villages.
In the Village of Therapia, Constantinople, she was arrested by
soldiers of the Emperor Antoninus Pius and brought to trial. The
charge was blasphemy and they charged her with inciting resistance to
authorities. Antoninus Pius attempted to convince her to denounce her
faith and even offered to marry her. Parasceva refused and was beaten
and tortured by having a steel helmet lined with nails placed on her
head and tightened with a vice. No pain seemed to affect her and her
endurance caused many to convert to Christianity. Eventually, at his
wit’s end, Antoninus Pius demanded that Parasceva be immersed into a
large kettle of oil and tar. However, she emerged from even this
unscathed. When she was accused of using magic, she responded by
throwing the liquid into the Emperor’s face. He was blinded, and
desperately asked for her help. Antoninus Pius regained his sight.
This miracle moved him to convert to Christianity and set Parasceva
free. Neither did he persecute Christians thereafter.
However, after the death of Antoninus Pius, the laws changed once
again under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. A plague struck the Roman
people and many, including Marcus Aurelius, considered Christians
responsible for angering the gods. Parasceva was again arrested
amongst many other Christians in a City governed by a man named
Asclepius, who threw her into a pit with a large snake. She, however,
made a Sign of the Cross and the snake fell asleep or dead. Just as
with Antoninus Pius, Parasceva ‘s miracle converted Asclepius to
Christianity and he released her. She continued to travel from Town to
Town, preaching the Faith.
Finally, Parasceva was arrested for the last time by a Roman official
named Tarasius and taken to the Temple of Apollo. Upon entering the
Temple, Parasceva made a Sign of the Cross and all the idols in the
Temple were instantly destroyed. Instead of converting the onlookers
to Christianity, however, they became enraged, and beat her. Taracius
then had her beheaded.
Her remains were eventually taken to Constantinople. Although it is
not certain when or how her relics reached Constantinople, it seems
that they were exhibited there in around 1200 to pilgrims.
“Dust, so to speak,
had forcibly entered humanity’s eye;
earth had entered it,
had injured the eye
and it could not see the light.
… That physician made a salve for you.
And because He came, in such a way,
that by His flesh,
He might extinguish the faults of the flesh
and by His death He might kill death … ”
--St Augustine (354-430)
Mother Anne, be joyful;
sing, O mother holy,
Since thou art the parent
O God's Mother lowly.
Praise thy wondrous daughter;
Joachim, too raises
To the Virgin Mary
His paternal praises.
For in her our planet
First hath benediction
Which hapless Eva
Therefore take the praises
Joyous hearts are paying;
And from all defilement
Cleanse us by thy praying.
Father, Son eternal,
Holy Ghost supernal,
With one praise we bless Thee,
Three in One confess Thee. Amen.