Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

December 4
  

Saint Barbara

Virgin and Martyr
(† 235)

Saint Barbara
Saint Barbara

Saint Barbara was brought up by a pagan father, Dioscorus. With the intention of protecting her beauty, he kept her jealously secluded in a lonely but very luxurious tower which he built for that purpose; for in his own way he loved her. In her forced solitude, this very gifted young girl undertook to study religion, and soon saw clearly all the vices and absurdities of paganism; her clear mind realized that there could be only one supreme Creator-God, and that He is entitled to the worship of His reasonable creatures. Divine Providence by its wonderful ways contrived to obtain for her the means to send a message to Origen, the famous exegete, asking for knowledge of the Christian faith. That teacher of Alexandria immediately sent to her, at Nicomedia, a disciple named Valentinian. Soon she was baptized, and Our Lord appeared to her, as He would appear to others such as Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Teresa of Avila, to tell her He had chosen her to be His spouse. Saint Barbara, rejoicing, hoped to be able to communicate her precious new faith to her father, but would soon discover that hope was vain.

When she was of an age to marry, many requests for her hand came to her wealthy father. She was his only heiress, and he rejected her expressed wish not to accept any such offer, although she said she wished to remain his consolation for his declining years. When she continued to refuse every suitor's demands, and when Dioscorus returned from a journey to find all the idols he had placed in her tower broken in pieces and scattered about, he was furious. Discovering his daughter's conversion, he was beside himself with rage. She escaped and dwelt for a time in a cavern, where she was concealed by the vegetation growing at the entrance. But finally her father's threats of chastisement, which he made known during his searches, for anyone who might be concealing her, caused some local shepherds who knew of her whereabouts, to reveal her retreat.

Her father denounced her to the civil tribunal, and Barbara was horribly tortured twice, and finally beheaded. Her own father, merciless to the last, asked to deal her the fatal blow himself. God, however, speedily punished her persecutors. While her soul was being borne by the Angels to Paradise, a flash of lightning struck Dioscorus and Marcian, the civil prefect, and both were summoned in haste to the judgment-seat of God.

Saint Barbara is beloved of the Spanish-speaking peoples. She is the special protectress of the region of Metz in France, where a magnificent church, later destroyed, was built in her honor in the 1500's. She is invoked against sudden and unprovided death, and invariably answers all requests for the favor of receiving the Last Sacraments. A famous instance of her intervention on behalf of a Saint who was on the verge of death, can be read in the life of Saint Stanislaus Kostka.

Reflection: Pray often to be protected from a sudden and unprovided death; and, above all, that you may be strengthened by the Holy Viaticum against the dangers of your final hour.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources, by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894)