Throughout the history of the Church we have encountered many young children and many young adults, who were willing to forgo the pleasures of the world…and were willing to sacrifice their comfortable lives and suffer great pains for their love of the Lord and the Christian Faith. Many of them tread into dangerous lands…leaving the safety and security of their family behind. Once these young saints learned about Christ and heard the Truth He came to share…They were willing to lay it all on the line…They were willing to follow His example, and live as a contradiction to the lure of the world and all it’s false promises. These young saints were filled with God’s grace and with the Lord’s help, were able to find the courage they needed for standing in defense of this same Truth…the Christian Faith... Through prayer, many of them were able to detach themselves from the things of the world…uniting themselves instead, to the Lord…and to Christ and His suffering on the Cross...
But times have changed… It seems not a day goes by in which we are not being bombarded with stories of college students who are ill equipped to handle the everyday pressures that come with being young adults… We watch as they tell the world they need ‘safe spaces’…and that they are unable to cope with what is going on in the world… Many of the young people we see on the evening news describe themselves as ‘fragile’. They haven’t a clue about the True reason they were created…They haven’t been taught about their soul…about God…and His gifts…for them... Without this knowledge, they are unprepared to face anything that doesn’t make them feel ‘loved’… The funny thing is… they don’t even know what the word means...They have no concept of God…or His Love… They have no concept of anything outside of themselves…and they are afraid…
As we read about martyrs, and other young saints whose very lives were devoted to the Faith, it is quite comforting to know that there still may be hope… That just maybe, by sharing these forgotten stories about the real life heroics of these young saints and how they embraced the Truth for what it really is, we may be able to help some of our young people understand that they too, were in fact, created for far greater things! If as parents we put more emphasis on teaching our children about the reality of God, we could prepare them…we could help change the way they view the world…and more importantly…their place in it…and their place in the heart of God…a Father who loves them very much….
Sadly, many of today’s young adults don’t have any idea of the past. And unfortunately many are being raised without the Faith, raised in homes that are void of the truth that can only be learned from the knowledge of God, and His Supreme Truth. I could go on…but, that shall have to wait for another day…Because today, I wish to share the story of a young girl who had more courage and resolve in her short life than most adults have today. Her name was Aquilina, and she was martyred for the Faith.
Aquilina was a native of the Phoenician city of Byblos, who suffered under the Emperor Diocletian. She was raised in a family with Christian values. Her mother was a major influence in developing her Christian faith. Unfortunately, her father wasn’t as strong a man, and when the going got tough, he refused to take a stand for his daughter…he failed to be the man that God intended him to be… leaving his daughter to suffer in the wretched hands of the Muslims who tortured her.
When she was only 12 years old, she convinced one of her pagan friends to convert to Christ. This upset one of the servants of the Imperial Governor Volusian, and he accused her of teaching others not to follow the religion of their fathers. When taken before the governor, she firmly confessed her faith in Christ. She swore that she would not renounce Christ. This upset Volusian, and over the years, he tried to influence the young confessor through persuasion and by flattery, but seeing her confidence, he set forth an order, that she was to be tortured.
At first they struck her upon the face, striking her with blows…hoping to break her will. When that didn’t work, they then stripped her of her clothing and beat her bare body with whips. Flesh was torn from her body, but with God’s grace she endured the agony. As the abuse continued, the torturer asked her, “Where then is your God? Let Him come and take you out of my hands”.
The saint answered, “The Lord is here with me invisibly, and the more I suffer, the more strength and endurance will He give me.”
The physical abuse continued as they drilled through the martyr’s ears with heated metal rods. Due the excruciating pain, the holy virgin fell down, it appeared as if she were dead. The torturer, thinking that the girl had actually died, gave orders to throw her body outside the city to be eaten by wild dogs. But that night a holy angel appeared to Saint Aquilina, rousing her, he said, “Arise and be healed. Go and denounce Volusian, so that his plans may come to nothing.”
The young martyr went to the court of the governor and stood before Volusian. He called once again for her to renounce her Christian Faith and become a Muslim. She answered him by saying:
“Perhaps you think that I have the same little faith as yourself to deny my Maker and Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ Who submitted to the cross and death for our sake? I refuse. I am prepared to undergo the woeful torment, even death, for the love of Christ.” Angered at the resolve of Saint Aquilina, and her message, he called for his servants, ordering them to keep watch over her until morning.
In the morning he had Saint Aquilina brought before him. He said that since she was not dead, she must be a sorceress. And because she did not obey the imperial decrees, which he had set forth, he sentenced her to death. When they led the young saint to her execution, she prayed and gave thanks to God for allowing her to suffer for His Holy Name. A loud voice was heard in answer to her prayer, summoning her to the heavenly Kingdom. Before the executioner could carry out the sentence of death, the martyr gave up her spirit to God. The executioner fearing that his disobedience might cause the Governor to inflict punishment upon him, he carried out his order, and cut off the young girl’s head, even though she was already dead.
Christians gathered her body, and piously buried the young martyr, hiding her body from the Muslims, whom they feared would destroy it. Many years later, her relics were carried to Constantinople and set in a place of honor, in a church which was named for her. She was 18 years old at the time of her death.