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Meet Pelagia, a scandalous actress who gave everything away for Christ


Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 10/08/18

She is the patron saint of actresses.

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Pelagia was a well-known actress and “loose woman” in 5th-century Antioch. St. John Chrysostom said of her, “Nothing was more vile than she was, when she was on the stage.”


Read more:
Augustine, Pelagia, and other sinners who became great saints

According to the Golden Legend, her conversion story starts when she was processing through the city one day. She was wearing gold, silver and precious stones, and was scantily clad, with her feminine form clearly on display.

A bishop saw her and later fell on his knees and prayed to God.

Almighty God, pardon me, a sinner, because the attention a courtesan has given to her adornment for one day exceeds the effort of my whole life. Do not let the outward show of a harlot put me to shame in the sight of your awesome majesty! She adorns herself for earthly eyes with the utmost care, whereas I, having resolved to please you, my immortal Lord, fail to do so because of my negligence.

He also prayed to God for Pelagia and after he fell asleep, had a curious dream.

Veronus suddenly fell asleep and dreamed that while he was celebrating Mass, a black, malodorous dove flew around him, but when he dismissed the catechumens, the dove disappeared. After Mass it came back, and the bishop plunged it into a tub of water. The dove came out clean and shining white, and flew away so high that it could no longer be seen, and the bishop woke up.

When he was celebrating Mass one day, Pelagia was present and listened attentively to the homily of the bishop. She was greatly impacted by the words of the bishop and sent him a letter which said, “To the holy bishop, disciple of Christ, Pelagia, disciple of the devil. If you prove truly to be a disciple of Christ, who, I have heard, came down from heaven for sinners, you will receive me, a sinner but a repentant one.”

Soon after Pelagia was baptized by the bishop and gave away all of her precious possessions to the poor. She then traveled to Mount Olivet outside of Jerusalem and remained there as a hermit for the rest of her life.

She is venerated as a saint on October 8 and is the patron saint of actresses.

Read more:
Hollywood Actress-Turned-Nun Details Vocation in New Book

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