Daughters of families of mixed religion, they were friends who suffered the same fate.
During the 9th century, the Muslims invaded and conquered large parts of what is today Spain. One area was known as Al-Andalus. It was from this conquered area where 48 Christians were put to death for their faith. These are known as the Martyrs of Cordoba. These people were executed from the years 851 to 859. They were all convicted of violating Sharia law, their crimes ranging from apostasy to blasphemy.
Among these brave Christians who stood tall for their faith while facing such horrendous consequences were two young women — one was named Flora, the other, Mary.
Flora was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mom. When she was still a child her father died and her mom raised her as a Christian. She had an older brother who was Muslim, and as she grew older he tried to convert her to his faith. Flora was adamant that she would not turn against Jesus. Her brother, exasperated, turned her into the authorities. Flora was sent to a prison, and a Muslim scholar was assigned to convert her to Islam. Somehow Flora escaped and made her way to Christian settlements.
During this same time, Mary had been born to a Christian father, who was also a deacon in the church, and a Muslim mom. Her mom had been baptized a short time after getting married. Mary’s parents, fearing being charged as “apostates,” left their home and headed to a town considered a safer place. It was shortly thereafter that Mary’s mother died.
Mary’s dad, fearful for his daughter’s safety, sent her to a convent in a place called Cuteclara. While praying at St. Acislus Church she met Flora, who arrived around the same time. They had much in common. Flora’s Muslim brother wanted to have her killed as an apostate. Mary’s dad had just been executed.
A genuine and deep friendship quickly developed between the two young women and they became inseparable. The convent’s Mother Superior told Maria how her two sons were executed by the Muslims 30 years earlier and how they had made her watch them as they suffered and died. Maria was horrified and the story was foremost in her thoughts.
Flora and Mary, fortified by their profound Christian faith and the strength they shared through their deep friendship, decided to turn themselves into the Muslim authorities. They would suffer and die together for Jesus.
In the culture of that time to be branded a prostitute was considered worse than death. The Muslim court, in an attempt to break the two women, sentenced them to a brothel so they would have to endure the shame and humiliation of prostituting themselves. Flora and Maria never wavered from their values and faith. They were beaten and scourged but never gave in. The authorities gave up and they were taken out and beheaded. Both girls are listed in the Roman Martyrology.
St. Flora is known as the patron saint of those who have been betrayed. After her dad passed on, Flora’s own brother tried to convert her to Islam and, having failed, turned her over to the authorities knowing full well she would be put to death. Yet she prayed for her brother before she was killed. She is a role model of forgiveness for us all.
St. Flora and St. Mary, please pray for us. Their feast day is November 24.
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