21 Jul Saint Praxedes, Virgin, Martyr
Today is the feast day of Saint Praxedes. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Praxedes is a martyr, born in the second century. Very little is known of her. The seventh-century itineraries to the graves of the Roman martyrs mention in the catacomb of Priscilla two female martyrs called Potentiana (Potenciana) and Praxedes (Praxidis). They occupied adjoining graves in this catacomb (De Rossi, “Roma sott.”, 1, 176-7). Of the various manuscripts of the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum” only the Echternach Codex (Cod. Eptern.) gives the name of St. Praxedes on 21 July (“Martyrol. Hieronym.”, ed. De Rossi-Duchesne, 94), but it looks like a later addition, and not as if it came from the fourth-century Roman Martyrology. Praxedes and Pudentiana were venerated as martyrs at Rome. Later legends connect them with the founder of the old title-church of Rome, “titulus Pudentis“, called also the “ecclesia Pudentiana“.
Legend makes Pudens a pupil of St. Peter, and Praxedes and Potentiana, his daughters. Later Potentiana became customarily known as “Pudentiana”, probably because the “ecclesia Pudentiana” was designated as “eccl. sanctae Pudentianae” and Pudentiana was identified with Potentiana. The two female figures offering their crowns to Christ in the mosaic of the apse in St. Pudentiana are probably Potentiana and Praxedes. The veneration of these martyrs therefore was in the fourth century connected in a particular manner with the “Titulus Pudentis”. About that time a new church, “titulus Praxedis“, was built near Santa Maria Maggiore, and the veneration of St. Praxedes was now especially connected with it. When Paschal I (817-824) rebuilt the church in its present form he translated to it the bones of Sts. Praxedes, Potentiana, and other martyrs.
Saint Praxedes and Saint Potentiana lived in those early years of the Church, at a time of extreme Christian persecution. They hid Christians in their homes and visited the imprisioned. They even gathered the bodies of the dead after they were brutalized in the Coliesuum, and hid them in a well until they could be properly buried. St. Praxedes is often depicted in art with a sponge soaked in blood; recalling how they cared for the precious blood of the martyrs after their awful executions.
Image: Saint Praxedes. Artist Johannes Vermeer, 1655. (3)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff