10 Dec Saint Eulalia, Child Martyr
Today is the feast day of Saint Eulalia. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Eulalia was a native of Merida, in Spain. The daughter of Christian parents, she was taught in her childhood by a very holy priest of that city.
She is reported to have been a child prodigy, wise beyond her years, and zealous in her faith. She was raised Christian, consecrated herself to the Lord, and generally experienced a trouble-free and enjoyable childhood. Most evenings and mornings were spent in prayer, but the majority of her time was spent in childhood pursuits.
She was but twelve years old when the bloody edicts of Diocletian were issued. Her parents, knowing of her vow of virginity and fearing that her zeal would cause her to be a victim of the persecutions, sent her to their house in the country. Eulalia indeed escaped, as they feared, and returned to the city to present herself, with her young companion and Christian friend, Julie, before the cruel Calpurnianus, representing the viceroy of Diocletian. She reproached him for attempting to destroy souls, by compelling them to renounce the only true God.
News of this great persecution reached Eulalia, who prayed about it while determining a course of action. One morning, before dawn, she snuck from her parents home (careful not to wake them) and walked into the city—which was some distance. In Greek, Eulalia means “one who speaks well,” and she made it her intention to do so that day. Upon arrival in the city center, Eulalia proceeded to the forum where the court of Judge Dacian was convened. Finding him sitting amongst the people, she crossed the lines of soldiers and stood before him. In a loud voice, Eulalia spoke:
“You, how come that you are sitting here, full of pride, to judge Christians? Don’t you fear God, the one who is above the emperors, the one who wants the people to worship Him, and only Him? Now you have the power, but your power is useless in God’s eyes.”
At first the judge was amused at this small child speaking to him. Then he was impressed by her courage, and finally, he became irate. “Who are you, girl, without fear? All these affirmations you say are against the imperial law!”
Courageously, Eulalia is said to have answered: “I am Eulalia, servant of my Lord Jesus Christ. I trust Him and that is why I cam here without fear to contest your conduct, which is the one of an ignorant.”
Livid, Dacian ordered her arrested and tortured. Despite her age—in fact, perhaps because of her age—he ordered the worst series of tortures imaginable, allowing Eulalia to free herself from such treatment by sacrificing to the pagan gods. She was raked across the sides, exposing the bone, with metal hooks, but she referred to her wounds as the “trophies of Christ.” Her breasts were severed and she was put into a barrel filled with knives and glass and rolled over the uneven streets. Upon removing her, Eulalia said to her torturers: “The tortures you are inflicting me make me greater and the wounds don’t hurt, because God is at my side. He will judge the abuses of authority you are responsible for.”
Judge Dacian was incensed at her faith. He ordered her burnt, but legend tells us that the flames extinguished upon touching her skin, but not before burning those attempting to harm her. Eventually, she succumbed to the torture, and at the moment of her death, her lips opened, and her soul—in the form of a white dove—flew from her lips into the heavens.
Judge Dacian ordered the soldiers to hang the young girl’s mangled body in a cross, as a warning to the public, and so that scavenger birds would come and disrespect her body. However, as they followed their orders, a heavy snow blanketed the city—despite the warm weather—covering her body and leaving her unspoiled. The soldiers, afraid, left their posts and the friends and family retrieved her holy body, burying it. Over the years, the relics of Saint Eulalia were moved, to escape destruction by invading forces. They now lie in the crypt of the cathedral bearing her name in Barcelona.
Praised by two Christian poets
Two Christian poets Prudentius (348-413), a Spaniard, and St Venantius Fortunatus (535-605), who lived at Poitiers, France, have written poems about Eulalia. She is also the subject of a sermon by St Augustine and is mentioned in the Calendar of Carthage and Martyrology of Jerome. Prudentius’s account presents her as a consecrated virgin of noble family, who despised frivolity and luxury and showed austerity and strictness worthy of an older person.
Veneration of Eulalia was already popular with Christians by AD 350; relics from her were distributed through Iberia. Bishop Fidelis of Merida rebuilt a basilica in her honour around 560 AD. Her shrine was the most popular in Visigothic Spain. In 780 her body was transferred to Oviedo by King Silo. It lies in a coffin of Arab silver donated by Afonso VI in 1075. In 1639, she was made patron saint of Oviedo.
Image: Saint Eulalia, artist: John William Waterhouse , circa 1885. (5)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff