Virgin and Martyr
Saint Susanna was nobly born in Rome, the daughter of a certain Gabinius, who after his conversion became a priest; she was also the niece of Pope Saint Caius, her father’s brother. This family was also related to the emperor Diocletian. Susanna’s father had raised her with great care in the fear of God and love of Jesus Christ, and she had made a private vow of virginity. Diocletian, wishing to obtain the consent of this very beautiful maiden to marry his favorite, Maximian, sent a certain Claudius, another member of her family, to propose the espousals. She refused to consent, making known to her father and Saint Caius her vow, and saying that even if she had not resolved to conserve her chastity, she would not wish to marry a man responsible for the massacre of an infinite number of Christians. The Emperor’s messenger was converted by her confession of faith, and became a fervent penitent.
When Diocletian received no answer from his messenger concerning the results of the commission, and then learned of the conversion of Claudius, he was very irritated; then with Claudius he arrested Suzanne, Gabinius her father, and several other Christians. He had Suzanne beaten in her residence, then decapitated secretly. The emperor’s wife, Prisca, who was also a Christian in secret, buried her body clandestinely and prayed to her as a holy martyr. Later the house of Gabinius was transformed by Pope Saint Caius into a church; it eventually became a convent for Cistercian nuns. Saint Susanna suffered towards the beginning of Diocletian’s reign, about the year 295.
Reflection: Sufferings were to the martyrs extraordinary graces, and sources of the greatest crowns and glory. All afflictions which God sends are His greatest mercies and blessings. They are precious talents which we must make fruitful, to increase our love and affection for God. They are exercises for the most heroic virtues of self-denial, patience, humility, resignation, and penance.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 9; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).