Monday, July 21, 2014

The Feast of Saint Praxedes

Saint Praxedes, by Johannes Vermeer, ca. 1655 (The attribution to Vermeer has often been disputed.)
Praxedes according to her legend was a Roman maiden, the sister of St. Pudentiana, who, when the Emperor Marcus Antoninus was hunting down Christians, sought them out to relieve them with money, care, comfort and every charitable aid. Some she hid in her house, others she encouraged to keep firm in the faith, and of yet others she buried the bodies; and she allowed those who were in prison or toiling in slavery to lack nothing. At last, being unable any longer to bear the cruelties inflicted on Christians, she prayed to God that, if it were expedient for her to die, she might be released from beholding such sufferings. And so on July 21 she was called to the reward of her goodness in Heaven. Her body was laid by the priest Pastor in the tomb of her father, Pudens, and her sister Pudentiana, which was in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way. (From Butler’s Lives of the Saints, revised by Herbert Thurston S.J. and Donald Attwater; 1956)

Saint Praxedes is depicted in art squeezing the blood of the martyrs which she has collected from a sponge into a vessel. In her basilica in Rome, a part of the floor in the central nave is marked as the place where their relics were laid to rest within the building that was once her house.

Especially on this day, let us remember and pray for all persecuted Christians in every part of the world.

“Today (the Christians of Mosul, Iraq) are persecuted, they are driven away, they have to leave their homes without the possibility of taking anything with them. To these families, to these people, I want to express my closeness and assure them of my constant prayer. Beloved brothers and sisters who are so persecuted, I know how much you are suffering, I know that you have been stripped of everything. I am with you in the faith of Him who has conquered evil! And to those of you, here in the piazza and those who are following us by means of television, I address the invitation to remember these Christian communities in prayer.” - His Holiness Pope Francis at yesterday’s Angelus.

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