Saint Martina, Virgin and Martyr
Today is the feast day of Saint Martina. Ora pro nobis.
from the Liturgical Year, 1904
A third Roman virgin, wearing on her brow a Martyr's crown, comes today to share the honors given to Agnes and Emerentiana, and offer her palm to the Lamb. Her name is Martina, which the pagans were wont to give to their daughters in honor of their god of war. Her sacred relics repose at the foot of the Capitoline hill, in the ancient temple of Mars, which has now become the beautiful Church of Saint Martina. The holy ambition to render herself worthy of Him whom she had chosen as her divine Spouse, gave her courage to suffer torments and death for His sake; so that of her, as of the rest of the Martyrs, we may say those words of the Liturgy, she washed her robes in the Blood of the Lamb. Our Emmanuel is the Mighty God, the Lord that is mighty in war, not, like the Mars of the pagans, needing the sword to win his battles. He vanquishes His enemies by meekness, patience, and innocence, as in the martyrdom of today's saint, whose victory was grander than was ever won by Rome's boasted warriors. This illustrious virgin, who is one of the Patrons of the City of Rome, is honored by having her praises sung by one of the popes.
Martina, a noble virgin of Rome, was the daughter of a Consul. Having lost her parents when quite a child, and being exceedingly fervent in the practice of the christian religion, she was singularly charitable to the poor, and distributed among them her immense riches. During the reign of Alexander Severus, she was ordered to worship the false gods, but most courageously refused to commit so detestable a crime. Whereupon, she was several times scourged; her flesh was torn with iron hooks and nails, and with potsherds, and her whole body was cut with most sharp swords; she was scalded with boiling oil, and was, at length, condemned to be devoured by wild beasts, in the amphitheater; but being miraculously left untouched by them, she was thrown on a burning pile, from which she also escaped unhurt, by the same divine power.
Some of the men that had inflicted these tortures upon her, being struck by the miracle, and touched by the grace of God, embraced the christian faith, and, after suffering many tortures, gained the glorious palm of martyrdom by being beheaded. The prayers of Martina were powerful with God. Earthquakes shook the city, fire fell from the heavens in the midst of loud thunder, the temples and idols of the gods were overthrown and destroyed. More than once, milk flowed from her wounds together with the blood, and a most sweet fragrance was perceived by the by-standers ; and sometimes she was seen raised up and placed on a beautiful throne, and singing the divine praises surrounded by heavenly spirits.
Vexed above measure by these prodigies, and, above all, by her constancy, the judge ordered her to be beheaded. Which being done, a voice from heaven was heard calling Martina to ascend : the whole city trembled, and many of the idolaters were converted to the faith of Christ. Martina suffered under the Pontificate of Urban the First; and under that of Urban the Eighth, her body was discovered in an ancient Church, together with those of the holy Martyrs Concordius, Epiphanius and Companions, near the Mamertine prison, at the foot of the Capitoline hill. The Church was restored, and decorated, and the body of the Saint was again placed in it, with much solemnity, in the presence of a great concourse of people, and amidst shouts of joy from the whole city.
Thus does christian Rome hymn thy praises, O generous martyr! and whilst praising, begs Thee to protect her with thy loving care. She is safe from danger, if shielded by such watchfulness as Thine. Hear her prayers, and drive far from the Holy City the enemies that would plot her ruin. She has foes more to be dreaded than they that attack her walls with the cannon of their fierce artillery–she has them who plot the destruction of her independence. Disconcert these plans of perfidy, and remember, O Martina that the city which now asks thy aid, was the mother that trained thee to be a martyr. Weaken still more the fallen kingdom of the Turk; emancipate Jerusalem; inspire our Europe to take up the cause of the suffering Syria.
Obtain for us from Jesus, thy Spouse, the courage to destroy those idols of our affections, to which we are so prone to offer the sacrifice of our hearts. The enemies of our salvation are untiring in their attacks upon our frailty–oh! stretch out to us thy helping hand; that hand, which made the idols of Rome tremble, is not less powerful now to stay the violence of the world that threatens to destroy our souls.
Thy own brave combats have given thee a place of honor near our Redeemer's crib: if, like thee, we will but resist and conquer, this Mighty God will welcome us, too, and bless us. He came into this world that He might vanquish our enemies, but He requires of us to share with Him the toils of the battle. Pray for us, O Martina! that our confidence in our God may ever be accompanied by diffidence in ourselves, and we shall never be cowards in the great contest for heaven. (1)
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. (2)
Hymn of Praise to Saint Martina of Rome
Written by Pope Urban VIII
Citizens of Rome! sing to the celebrated name of the glorious Martina. Sing the praises of this admirable Virgin and Martyr of Christ.
She was born of noble parents, and was brought up in every delicacy, surrounded by all that could pamper nature, and with riches of a princely house at her command.
But she spurns these luxuries, dedicates herself to the Creator of all things, and with a liberal hand distributes her riches to the poor of Christ, that she may gain the riches of heaven.
She shrinks not at the torturing hook, the wild beasts, or the cruel wound-inflicting rods. Angels descend from heaven, comforting her with divine food.
The very lions lose their fierceness, and tamely come crouching at her feet. The sword, Martina 1 gave thee the wished-for death, and death united thee to the choirs of heaven.
Our ceaseless prayers mount up to thee from thine altar, where clouds of incense shroud devotion's love; and thy blessed name banishes that of the false deity Mars.
Do thou protect thy fatherland, and give to Christian countries the rest of holy peace, driving unto Thracian coasts the din of arms and war.
Marshal the armies of princes under the banner of the Cross, deliver Jerusalem from her chains. Avenge innocent blood, and once for all crush down the Turkish foe.
O thou our Patron, and our City's Saint I see this homage of our loving hearts. Hear the prayers of thy Rome, which on this festive day offers thee its hymns and reveres thy name.
O God, whose arm protects the Martyrs, take from us the pleasures which would make us fall. O Triune God I give to thy servants the blessed light, wherewith thy mercy crowns the soul with bliss.
Image: Madonna and Child with Saint Martina and Saint Agnes, artist: El Greco, circa: between 1597 and 1599
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff