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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

St. Eulalia

(ca. 290 - 304)

Ordinary Time: February 12

Eulalia, descended from one of the best families in Spain, was educated in the Christian religion, and in sentiments of perfect piety, from her infancy distinguished herself by an admirable sweetness of temper, modesty, and devotion, showed a great love of the holy state of virginity, and by her seriousness and her contempt of dress, ornaments diversions, and worldly company, gave early proofs of her sincere desire to lead on earth a heavenly life. Her heart was raised above the world before she was thought capable of knowing it, so that its amusements, which usually fill the minds of young persons, had no charms for her, and every day of her life made an addition to her virtues.

She was but twelve years old when the bloody edicts of Dioclesian were issued, by which it was ordered that all persons, without exception of age, sex, or profession, should be compelled to offer sacrifice to the gods of the empire. Eulalia, young as she was, took the publication of this order for the signal of battle; but her mother, observing her impatient ardor for martyrdom, carried her into the country. The saint found means to make her escape by night, and after much fatigue arrived at Merida before break of day. As soon as the court sat, the same morning, she presented herself before the cruel judge, whose name was Dacianus, and reproached him with impiety in attempting to destroy souls, by compelling them to renounce the only true God. The governor commanded her to be seized, and first employing caresses, represented to her the advantages, which her birth, youth and fortune gave her in the world, and the grief, which her disobedience would bring to her parents. Then, he had recourse to threats, and caused the most dreadful instruments of torture to be placed before her eyes, saying to her, "All this you shall escape if you will but touch a little salt and frankincense with the tip of your finger."

Provoked at these seducing flatteries, she threw down the idol, trampled upon the cake, which was laid for the sacrifice, and, as Prudentius relates, spat at the judge; an action only to be excused by her youth and inattention under the influence of a warm zeal, and fear of the snares, which were laid for her. At the judge's order, two executioners began to tear her tender sides with iron hooks, so as to leave the very bones bare. In the mean time, she called the strokes so many trophies of Christ. Next, lighted torches were applied to her breasts and sides: under which torment, instead of groans, nothing was heard from her mouth but thanksgivings. The fire at length catching her hair, surrounded her head and face, and the saint was stifled by the smoke and flame. Prudentius tells us that a white dove seemed to come out of her mouth, and to wing its way upward when the holy martyr expired: at which prodigy the executioners were so much terrified that they fled and left the body.

A great snow that fell covered it and the whole forum where it lay; which circumstance shows that the holy martyr suffered in winter. The treasure of her relics was carefully entombed by the Christians near the place of her martyrdom: afterwards a stately church was erected on the spot, and the relics were covered by the altar, which was raised over them. Her relics are kept with great veneration at Oviedo, where she is honored as patroness.

Excerpted from Butler's Lives of the Saints


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