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Saint Tharsilla

Aunt of Pope Saint Gregory the Great


Fr Lawrence Lew / CC

Virgin (Sixth Century)

Her life

+ Tharsilla (or Trasilla) was from an ancient Roman family.

+ According to her nephew, Saint Gregory the Great (see Homily 38 on the Gospel of Matthew), Tharsilla and her sister, Emiliana, had devoted themselves to lives of prayer and fasting, living in the home of their father.

+ Later traditions relate that Pope Saint Felix III, an ancestor of Tharsilla and Emiliana, appeared to Tharsilla, inviting her to heaven; she died on Christmas Eve as she experienced a vision of Jesus calling her. The legend further relates that, a few days after her death, Tharsilla appeared to Emiliana, inviting her to celebrate Epiphany in heaven.

+ The relics of Saints Tharsilla and Emiliana, along with those of their sister-in-law, Saint Sylvia (the mother of Saint Gregory the Great), are enshrined in the oratory of St. Andrew on the Caelian Hill. This chapel stands on the site of the monastery Saint Gregory had founded before being elected pope.

Spiritual bonus

A traditional Advent image for Christmas Eve is the Tree of Jesse. This medieval image was inspired by mystery plays that told the story of the Bible, celebrating the prophets and patriarchs who prepared the way for Mary and, ultimately, for her Son. The Tree depicts the ancestors of Jesus, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse, the father of King David, symbolizing the family tree of Jesus.

For reflection

Behold, when the fullness of time had come,
God sent his Son into the world.—Entrance Antiphon for the Mass of December 24 (from Galatians 4)


Come quickly, we pray, Lord Jesus,
and do not delay,
that those who trust in your compassion
may find solace and relief in your coming.
Who live and reign with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Collect for December 24)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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