6 Saints With Rather Intense Stories

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November 1st is All Saints Day, a day to commemorate all the saints, known and unknown. In recognition, here are the stories of six known saints.

1 & 2. Perpetua and Felicity

Perpetua was a 22-year-old noble and Felicity was her slave. The two women were persecuted for their Christian beliefs in Roman-owned Carthage while Perpetua was breastfeeding and Felicity was pregnant. Perpetua documented their tortures, and her writings are the earliest surviving text written by a Christian woman.

When they were tried, Felicity was exempted from the death penalty because she was pregnant. Two days before they were to be put to death, though, she gave birth, allowing her to be martyred with her friends and loved ones.

On the day of their execution, the women were first whipped and then led into an amphitheater, where they were to be torn to pieces by a wild cow. The animal brutalized them, but they were not killed. They were then to be put to death by the blade of a sword. Felicity’s execution went smoothly, but Perpetua’s executioner’s hand slipped and pierced between her bones, failing to kill her. Perpetua then grabbed the man’s hand and guided the sword to her own neck. It was later said that she was so great a woman she could not be slain unless she herself willed it.

3. Symeon the Stylite

Fasting for a few days is difficult for even the most dedicated religious observer, but Symeon Stylites brought fasting and silent worship to a whole new level. In fact, Symeon was kicked out of the first monastery he joined after he abstained from food and water throughout Lent until he completely passed out. He then spent a year and a half in a small hut, where he again went without eating and drinking for all of Lent. When he emerged from the hut alive, it was considered a miracle.

After leaving his hut, Symeon moved to a small cave that was less than 20 meters in diameter. He sought solitude at the cave, but crowds of pilgrims began gathering outside the cave, seeking his counsel and prayers. Symeon felt he didn’t have enough time to dedicate to his worship, so he then moved onto a 13-foot-tall pillar in Syria.

While living there, his only sustenance came from boys in the village who would climb up the pillar and provide him with bread and milk. Throughout the next 39 years, he continually moved up to higher and higher pillars. Eventually, his last pillar was over 50 feet tall. Keep in mind that this was in Syria, where the weather can range from over 100 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Symeon eventually passed away on his pillar. After his death, many other worshipers followed his example and, for a while, seeing Christians living atop a pillar was a common sight in Syria. These days, Symeon still holds the Guinness Record for longest pole sitting session.

4. Pope Clement I

Like many Christians of the Roman era, Clement was prosecuted for his beliefs. In fact, he was banished from Rome and forced to serve in a stone quarry in Russia. Upon arriving, Clement discovered the prisoners were being denied water and were dying of thirst. He then saw a lamb on a hill and struck the ground where the lamb stood with his pick axe, releasing a gushing stream of water. The miracle resulted in many of the prisoners immediately converting to Christianity. As a punishment for this deed, the soldiers working at the mine tied Clement to an anchor and threw him from a boat into the Black Sea.

When Clement’s followers went to recover his body, the sea drew back three miles and Clement’s remains were discovered to already be enclosed in a stunning shrine. On the anniversary of the date every year after, the sea would again pull back and reveal his shrine. One year, a woman’s son got stuck in the shrine after the sea rolled back in. A year later, the boy was discovered to be completely unharmed, still asleep in the shrine.

Eventually, Clement's bones were removed; they are now enshrined in the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome.

5. Agatha of Sicily

Agatha was a virgin who dedicated herself to God. Unfortunately, a Roman prefect named Quintianus set his lustful eyes on her. When she rejected his advances, she was persecuted, first by being thrown into a brothel. When even a stint in the brothel didn’t change her mind, Quintianus ordered Agatha’s breasts be cut off. He refused her any medical treatment, but when Agatha was in her cell, she saw a vision of Saint Peter, who restored her breasts and healed her wounds.

Eventually, Quintianus ordered Agatha be put to death by being rolled naked across a bed of hot coals. While she was being tortured, an earthquake suddenly occurred and the walls collapsed, killing two men, both of whom had played a major role in her torture. Agatha was then returned to her cell, where she died from her wounds.

6. Saint Sebastian

Sebastian originally hid his Christian beliefs from the Romans so that he could work as a prison guard and allow people to visit their relatives who were imprisoned due to their beliefs. When he did come forward about his faith, he was exceptionally convincing—to the point that he even ended up converting the local prefect and his son, who wound up becoming a saint himself. Sebastian also converted another local official and his wife, Zoe, who hadn’t spoken for the last six years. After Zoe became a Christian, though, her speech was suddenly returned to her.

The prefect was so moved by Sebastian’s words and actions that he set all the Christian prisoners free from jail and resigned his position of power. The new prefect was not so easy to convert. He was enraged by Sebastian’s actions and ordered him to be executed by a squad of archers. The archers loaded Sebastian with arrows and then left him for dead. When one of his followers went to find his body to bury it, she discovered he was still alive. The woman nursed him back to health.

As soon as he recovered, Sebastian went before the emperor and condemned him for his treatment of Christians. The emperor accordingly had him beaten to death by his guards and thrown in the city sewers. An apparition appeared to a local Christian widow telling her that Sebastian’s body could be found in a nearby field, completely undefiled.

Because he was believed to have been killed by the archers and then went on to be killed by the same emperor, Sebastian is often referred to as the saint who was murdered twice.

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November 1, 2011 - 6:15am
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