Today Pope Francis tweeted the following: Contemplating Mary allows us to turn our gaze to all those many women, mothers and grandmothers who, by their quiet sacrifices, devotion and self-denial, are shaping the present and preparing the way for tomorrow’s dreams. Mary’s courageous “Fiat!” is a testament to the women of faith that came before her and also how she became the prime example by which many more women, young and old, give their “Fiat!”
Just yesterday was the feast day of St. Joan of Arc. Another a courageous young woman, never wavering in her conviction of the mission given to her by God. She is quoted as saying, “…in God’s name let us go on bravely” and “Courage! Do not fall back!” and finally, “I fear nothing for God is with me!” Of course, St Joan of Arc was leading an army into battle. But, aren’t we all in one way or another, engaged in a battle? Whether it be a spiritual battle to conquer sin or temptation, a physical battle to overcome an illness or just to get through a regular busy stress-filled day. Some days it takes great courage just to get out of bed.
While doing the research for our pilgrimage, “Women Saints Through the Centuries,” we discovered and learned about so many women that lived and worshiped in and around Rome that shared this same conviction as Mary and St. Joan of Arc, such a depth of faith and love of Christ that deeply affected us in our own spiritual journeys prompting even more care in the crafting of this pilgrimage. We wanted to encounter these saints in a thoughtful and intentional way with enough time and space to fully appreciate each of their contributions and examples of faith.
Sts. Praxedes (“Prassedes“) and Pudentiana are two more examples of young women firmly convicted in their faith. They are the daughters of St. Pudens, a Roman senator converted by and baptized by St. Paul. It is said that St. Paul stayed in their home. St. Paul refers to Pudens in the second letter to Timothy, chapter 4, verses 19 – 22:
Final Greeting. Greet Prisca and Aquila and the family of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained in Corinth, while I left Trophimus sick at Miletus. Try to get here before winter. Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers send greetings. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with all of you.
After the death of their father, Praxedes and her sister, along with the presbyter Pastor, had a baptistery built in the titulus founded by Pudens for the baptizing of those converting to Christianity. Pudentiana died young and after their brother also died, Praxedes inherited the family wealth and built the church that is named after her. She used the building to conceal many early Christians being persecuted by the Emperor Antonius Pius, Christians who, if discovered, would be put to death. What courage! St. Praxedes was known to collect the bodies of the martyred Christians and bury them in the Catacombs of Priscilla, where she was also buried near her sister and father after being martyred.
Mosaic depicting the sisters with the Blessed Virgin Mary
Pope Paschal I rebuilt the ancient titulus Praxedis (the modern day basilica) and moved the relics of the virgin Praxedes there, along with a few of her sister’s remains and those of innumerable martyrs according to the accounts found in the collections of the Roman Passionaries (5th-6th centuries).
In religious art and iconography, St Praxedes is portrayed holding a sponge, collecting the blood of the Christian martyrs in a well, in memory of which a well was preserved int he central nave of the basilica until as recently as 1918. The saint is always depicted with her sister, and often, owing to the influence of the legends recorded in the Passionaries, in association with the Apostles Peter and Paul. (The featured image is of St. Praxedes placing a crown on the head of St. Peter)
While in Rome, we will visit the churches named for each of these saints. The Basilica to St. Praxedes is filled with frescoes, mosaics and paintings telling the story of the salvation of man, of the strong presence of the resurrected Lord in the dynamics of history up to the very end. There is much to explore and contemplate here.
Interior of the Basilica to St. Praxedes
For more information about the Women Saints Through the Centuries Pilgrimage, click HERE.
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