Saturday, March 13, 2010

Memorial of St Euphrasia

"The virgin, Euphrasia, was born in the days of Theodosius the Elder. Her father, Antigonus, and her mother, Euphrasia, were both distinguished rank, for they were of the blood of the Emperor. They nevertheless valued piety more than birth, and they were always busied in works of charity. It was their occupation of almost every day to succor the poor, to entertain pilgrims, to soothe the suffering, to visit religious homes, which they liberally endowed, and to give themselves to prayer. God, in answer to their desires, sent them a daughter; but after her birth they took, by mutual consent, a vow of perpetual continence, in order that they might give their minds more entirely to God and to their neighbor. In this way they passed one year under the same roof, apart, but with hearts united; and at the end of that time Antigonus, enriched with good works, was removed from this life to light eternal. His widow, Euphrasia, could never be moved from the vow of perpetual continence which she had made to God, though she was sought by many for the sake of her rare gifts of mind and person. She chose rather the surer way, and determined to bid farewell to the world as she had already done to earthly pleasures. 

Therefore she set out far into Thebaide, taking the maiden, her daughter, with her, and there she passed the rest of her life, every supplying out of her abundance the needs of the neighboring monasteries, for her wealth was great. While she was applying herself earnestly to the discharge of these pious duties, it happened, by the providence of God, that she and her beloved daughter were taken to a large monastery where dwelt, in the practice of rigid discipline, more than one hundred and thirty nuns under one Abbess. They wore haircloth every day, and they were so given to fasting that some would go without food for two, and others for three days, while the rest took no food before evening. They lived upon herbs and vegetables only, and it was held a sin even to touch wine, oil, grapes, figs, or apples.** After passing some time there, the mother was getting ready to depart, when the little maiden, Euphrasia, was seixed with the desire of staying behind to serve God in these choirs of virgins. She confided her wish to the Abbess, who, to turn her from it, laid before her, on the other hand, the yoke of obedience, the trials of poverty, and the rigor of monastic discipline. The child still insisted, declaring that Christ, whom she longed to choose for her spouse, would not fail to help her.

Thereupon the mother was called in, and she did her utmost, by tender words, to keep her daughter with her. Finding that the maiden was not thus to be moved, the mother wondered; and turning to a picture of Our Lord, she raised her hands to Heaven, and, in a broken voice, she uttered these words, 'O Lord Jesus Christ, take this child under Thy care, for she hath desired Thee, and hath committed herself unto Thee.' She then at once used her influence with the Abbess n her daughter's behalf, urging that she be clothed with the religious habit. This was done, and the pious maiden dwelt in that monastery from her seventh to her thirtieth year, going onward daily from virtue to virtue. Her patience and humility were particularly remarkable, for she did not disdain the humbler duties of the monastery, but gave rise, on the contrary, to general admiration by the readiness with which she performed them. She was so exact in the practice of her obedience that wen the Abbess, to try her, commanded her to carry heavy stones upon her shoulders from one place to another, and then to take them back to their former position, she did it all faithfully and without delay, nor did she plead as as an excuse the difficulty of the task of her bodily weakness. She kept so strict a fast, that she would pass, not merely two days or a week, but even forty days without food or drink. The enemy of the human race, enraged at this, often attacked the maiden with various temptations, but she courageously overcame him by fasting and prayer. Thereupon he grew more and more infuriated, and laid open pitfalls for her life. At one time he would push her into a well, at another he cast her into a boiling cauldron, but by the power of God she always escaped unhurt. After she had heaped up merits so great, her Heavenly Spouse called her, and Euphrasia passed hence to Heaven.


O God! who makest Thy Church ever fruitful with new offspring, give ear unto Thy suppliants, that, as Thou hast adorned the holy Virgin Euphrasia with virtues and miracles, we may be snatched, through her intercession, from the darkness of vice. Through our Lord."

-- Proper Offices of the Saints granted to the Barefooted Carmelites (1896)

** There is nothing intrinsically evil about these food items. One has to consider that in the times of St Euphrasia they were considered delicacies. Oil was especially valuable. Thus, abstaining from these items was a sacrifice. The memorial of St Euphrasia was universally observed by all Carmelites until the revision of the liturgical calendar in the 1960s.

No comments: