Virgin and Martyr (d. 303)
Special Note: In 2020, April 5 is celebrated as Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord and the beginning of Holy Week.As a way of honoring the Passion of Christ and the witness of the martyrs, all of the saints highlighted during this Holy Week will be chosen from those who offered their lives for Christ. The reflections and prayers will be taken from the liturgical texts of the corresponding day of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum.
+ The young martyr Irene is honored along with her older sisters Agape and Chionia; the three martyrs are honored in a common feast by the Eastern Church on April 3.
+ The sisters were born in Aquileia (in modern-day Turkey). After their parents died, they were raised by a priest named Xeno.
+ In 303, when the Emperor Diocletian declared that it was a capital crime to possess a copy of the Christian scriptures, the sisters hid the copies of the sacred texts they had in their home.
+ Agape and Chionia were eventually arrested for refusing to take part in the officially sanctioned cult of the emperor. They could not be convinced to deny their Christian faith and Agape and Chionia were condemned to burned to death.
+ After the two women were executed, soldiers searched the sisters’ home and found the copies of the scriptures that had been hidden there. Irene was arrested.
+ According to the legends associated with these saints, Irene was handed over to a local official named Sisinus, who wanted to break the girl’s spirit by sending her to a brothel. The legend goes on to say that as she was being escorted to the house, two soldiers intercepted the group and said that Irene was to be abandoned in the wilderness.
+ After the girl was left, the escorts returned to Sisinus, who declared that he never gave such an order. He hunted Irene died and she was ultimately killed by being shot in the neck with an arrow.
For prayer and reflection
“Christ became obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.”—Philippians 2:8-9
Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Collect for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.