First Virgin Martyr
(† First Century)
Saint Thecla is one of the most ancient, as she is one of the most illustrious Saints in the calendar of the Church. It was at Iconium that Saint Thecla heard the preaching of Saint Paul, who kindled the love of virginity in her heart. She had been promised in marriage to a young man who was rich and generous, but after hearing the discourses of the Apostle’s word she died to all thought of earthly espousals. She forgot her beauty; she was deaf to her parent’s threats, and at the first opportunity fled from a luxurious home and followed the Apostle.
The rage of her parents and of her suitor followed hard after her, and the Roman power did its worst against the virgin whom Christ had chosen for Himself. She was stripped and placed in the public theater, but her innocence shrouded her like a garment. Then the lions were let loose against her; they fell crouching at her feet and licked them like a house pet. Even fire could not harm her. Torment after torment was inflicted upon her without effect, until finally the divine Spouse of virgins spoke the word of deliverance and called her to Himself, with the double crown of martyrdom and virginity upon her head.
Reflection: It is purity in soul and body which will make you strong in pain, in temptation, and in the hour of death. I can do all in the One who fortifies me, said Saint Paul. Imitate the purity of this glorious virgin, and take her for your special patroness in your last agony.
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).