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Saint Anastasia

Saint Anastasia
  • Century: 3rd Century
  • Patronage: weavers, widows, martyrs, those suffering from poisons
  • Feast Day: December 25th

St. Anastasia appears in the Roman Canon and has been venerated at Rome since the late 5th Century.  One would think that these facts would indicate a celebrity martyr whose life we knew many facts about.  Unfortunately, we know very little about St. Anastasia.

What we do know about this woman is that she was born to Roman nobility and married a pagan; however, St. Anastasia was converted by her tutor and advisor, St. Chrysogonus.  Living at the end of the 3th Century and beginning of the 4th, St. Anastasia found herself at the high-water mark of the Diocletian persecutions.  During this time St. Anastasia cared for the confessors of the faith who were in prisons and hospitals.  This lasted until she was forbidden by her husband to continue this work of mercy. 

In the meantime, St. Anastasia’s husband was dispatched to the Far East in service of Rome.  During this campaign he was killed, leaving St. Anastasia free and unbounded.  She went to Aquileia (where St. Chrysogonus had taken refuge) and continued her work with caring for the persecuted Faithful.  It wasn’t long before she, herself, was brought up on charges and arrested for her Faith. 

Legend has it that she and many other Christians and pagan prisoners were put on a boat and left in the middle of the sea to die.  However, the Roman authorities’ plans severely backfired when the Christians aboard organized and managed to navigate the ship back to shore.  It is said that the entire company of pagans converted.  Yet St. Anastasia’s life was not spared.  When the rotting-in-a-boat routine did not work, the Romans commenced a violent bloodbath, torturing over 270 men and women, including St. Anastasia.  The Roman methods were horrendous and barbaric.  St. Anastasia was staked to the ground with her arms and legs outstretched while fires were ignited in a ring around her.  She was slowly burned alive.  This massacre occurred upon the island of Palmaria around 304.  Her feast occurs on Christmas Day (Dec. 25) and she is commemorated during the second Mass on Christmas Day. 

Practical Take-Away: The Counsel of the Saints & Spiritual Direction

But for her time with St. Chrysogonus, St. Anastasia likely would have been a pagan.  That meant not only would she not have been a saint, but very likely would have foregone the many good deeds she carried out by caring for the poor.  Indeed, as a pagan, she likely would have participated in the slaughters.  As human beings we all have an extraordinary potential to be great saints, but also great sinners.  To keep ourselves honest, we must first begin by being honest with ourselves.  We are not perfect.  We need help.  We can’t do this alone.  Just as St. Anastasia was advised by a holy man, we would be well-advised to seek meaningful spiritual direction for our lives.  Perhaps we, too, will be converted and deeply moved.  Perhaps we, too, will use the fruits of our spiritual direction to become saints.