NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Saint of the Month - October 2014: Saint Ursula of Cologne

St. Ursula, Virgin & Martyr
Feast: October 21st **

This relatively obscure Saint is one of those exotic female virgin-martyrs whose biography became so embellished by legend that it eventually became a fantastic tale of improbable proportions.  According to one popular version of her life story, St. Ursula was a devout Christian of royal blood who was betrothed against her will to a pagan prince by her unsympathetic father.  Prior to her scheduled marriage, she obtained permission from her father to make a pilgrimage to Rome and embarked on a sea voyage with 11,000(!) virginal handmaids.

During the ocean crossing, Ursula and her entourage were marooned by a storm near Cologne, Germany, which at the time was being ravaged by the Huns.  One of the Hun chieftains was smitten by the lovely maiden but she refused his advances while professing her faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ.  In retaliation, Ursula and her handmaidens were murdered by their captors, via a shower of arrows, which thus earned for each of them the glorious palm of martyrdom.  According to one source, the mass-killing of St. Ursula and her companions occurred sometime in the year 451.

A historical, and more probable account, relates that circa the fourth century, a small church was erected over the tomb of a group of women martyrs in Cologne, Germany. The exact number of martyrs are not known, but apparently, the manner in which they died for our Faith impressed the local Christians and merited the building of a church over their mass grave.

An engraved stone plaque found near the tomb of the women was interpreted as identifying the leader of the group as “Ursula”, but confusion over some of the Roman texts may have led to the legend of the 11,000 virgins.  A Roman senator named Clematius was later inspired to renovate and enlarge the little church, which further popularized the cult of St. Ursula and her companions.

A Reflection
Who we associate with is a good indication of the person we most likely are, or may become.  As an old adage says, "Birds of a feather, flock together."

A Short Prayer
O St. Ursula, you surrounded yourself with godly companions, help me to choose my friends and associates wisely.  May I, too, be surrounded with good and holy people who will encourage and journey with me in my own walk towards Christ.  Amen.

** Note:  Although her Feast Day was removed from the Universal Roman Calendar in 1969 (due to the lack of historical data about her), there are still many Catholic communities throughout the world who observe St. Ursula's feast and venerate her memory.

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