St. Martina, Virgin

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1682


St. Martina, Virgin & Martyr

Saint Martina, a Roman virgin, was the child of a noble Christian consul, of whom it was said that he was extremely merciful towards the poor, and very zealous for faith in the Most Holy Trinity. His daughter lost both her parents while she was still very young, and for love of Christ she distributed all she inherited to the poor, that she might be more free to hasten towards martyrdom, during the persecution which had recently begun.

Under the emperor Alexander Severus she was discovered in a church one day by three officers of a search party, and commanded to follow them to a temple of Apollo. She cheerfully agreed, saying she would do so after praying for a short time and taking leave of her bishop. The officers reported their important capture to the emperor, believing she would readily renounce her faith. But when he ordered her to speak, she replied that she would sacrifice to none other than the true God, and never to idols, the handiwork of men. She was tortured by iron hooks, but her executioners were thrown to the ground amid a great light as she prayed, and arose converted, like Saint Paul, to the Christian faith.

She was tormented again the following day before the emperor, cruelly scourged while attached by her hands and feet to posts. When, one day later, she was taken to a temple of Diana, the demon left amid horrible screams. Fire from heaven fell and burnt the idol, which in tumbling crushed many of its priests and pagan worshipers. Saint Martina, after suffering other tortures and being spared by an enraged lion and a fiery furnace, was finally beheaded. Her death occurred on January 1st during the fourth year of Alexander Severus.

Her relics were found in 1634, during the papacy of Urban VIII, near the Mamertine Prison, with those of several other martyrs. All were placed in a beautiful church dedicated to Saint Martina in the Roman Forum. Urban VIII spared no efforts in promoting her veneration; and through his solicitude the Office was enhanced with hymns for Matins and Lauds. In these we read that her soul rose to heaven, where she was seen afterwards upon a royal throne, while the Blessed sang praises to God.

Reflection. God calls His Saints to Him at every age; little children turn to Him with faith and love, strong men in their mature years, white-haired grandparents and servants of God in their golden age. And we find martyrs ready for every torment, at all epochs of life. What is important is to be ready and to desire the most important day of our life — that of our death.


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At that time: Jesus spake this parable unto his disciples: The kingdom of heaven shall be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridgegroom and the bride. And so on, and that which followeth. Matt. : 25, 1-13
A Homily by St. Gregory the Pope

Dearly beloved brethren: oftentimes do I warn you to flee evil, and to keep yourselves unspotted from the world. But today's reading from the holy Gospel moveth me to warn you even further, namely, to exercise prudence when ye attempt to do good. Look ye well to your motives lest, when ye work righteousness, ye do it for the praise and admiration of men. For if we do things to obtain praise of men, what appeareth so fair outwardly hath nothing inwardly which deserveth reward. Behold how the Redeemer speaketh of these ten virgins. He calleth them all virgins. Yet not all of them were received within the gates of blessedness. For some of them sought outwardly the honour of virginity, but had no substance of virginity within, for they took no oil wherewith to sustain the lamp of purity.

But first of all, it is for us to ask, What is the kingdom of heaven? And wherefore shall the same be likened unto ten virgins, whereof, albeit five were wise, yet five were foolish? For if the kingdom of heaven be such that there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, how can it be like unto five virgins which were foolish? But we should know that in language of holy Scripture, the kingdom of heaven doth oftentimes signify the Church as she now is, touching the which the Lord saith in another place: The Son of Man shall send forth his Angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend. In that kingdom of blessedness, wherein peace shall have her perfect reign, there shall be nothing found that offendeth for the Angels to gather out.

The body of every man doth consist of five senses, and five being doubled is ten. Forasmuch, therefore, as the whole body of the faithful doth consist of two sexes, the Holy Church may be likened unto ten virgins. And forasmuch as in the Church the good are for the present mingled with the bad, and the reprobate with the elect, it is rightly said that, of the ten virgins, five are wise and five are foolish. There are many who have self-control, which do keep themselves from lusting after things outward, whose hope beareth them to things inward, who chastise their flesh, and are moved by intense homesickness for their Fatherland which is in heaven. These are they who reckon their glory, not in the mouths of men, but in the testimony of their own conscience. But also there are many who afflict the body by self-control, and yet, in that very self-control, do seek only the applause of men.
 
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