Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Anysius, Virgin and Martyr, and Saint Columba, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Columba of SensArticle

In the reign of Maximian, the cruel persecutor of the Christians, there lived at Thessalonica, a virgin, named Anysia, who was known and esteemed through the whole city on account of her virtues. She was born of Christian parents, and very piously educated. Inheriting great riches, after the early death of her parents, she feared to fall, by the misuse of them, into vice, and therefore she resolved to employ them only for the comfort of the poor, the sick and prisoners. Generous as was this resolution, she was faithful in carrying it into execution. She visited the sick and prisoners, and provided them with all they needed To the poor and suffering she gave until she had nothing left; and taking up her abode in a small house, she maintained herself by the labor of her hands. She spent her days in fasting and prayer, visiting the Church, devout reading and work, and passed the greater part of the night in singing psalms. Her bed was the floor, her sleep short, and her dress made of sack-cloth. She seldom prayed without shedding many tears, and her only wish was to be admitted soon into the presence of her beloved Spouse, to whom she had consecrated her virginity. But she desired to appear before Him only as a martyr. “Let me partake of Thy bitter sufferings,” she prayed to the Lord, “and do with me according to Thy holy will.” She feared to live long in the world amid so many dangers; hence she sighed for death, which would free her from all danger of offending God. An Angel appeared to her, and brought her the welcome message that her wish would soon be fulfilled; hence she prepared herself with great zeal, looking upon each day as her last on earth. Thus, filled with heavenly aspirations, she, one day, repaired to church, where she Was seen by one of the imperial soldiers, who, hastening to her, said: “Stay! whither are you going?” . The chaste virgin was at first startled at this unexpected question, but soon composing herself, she called on God, as the protector of her chastity, made the sign of the holy Cross upon her forehead, and passed on without answering the insolent man. Following her, he repeated his question: “Who are you and whither are you going?” “I am a handmaid of Jesus Christ,” said Anysia, “and am going to Church.” “I will not let you go, but take you with me to worship the gods,” said the soldier; and seizing the veil that covered the head of the holy virgin, he endeavored to take it away. Anysia defended herself with all her strength, spat in his face and said: “Away with you; the Lord will punish you.” Enraged at this he drew his sword, and, running it through her body, killed her on the spot. Thus was her wish fulfilled, and she went, as a chaste virgin and martyr, to her beloved Spouse, after whom she had sighed so fervently.

***

To this short biography, we add that of another holy virgin and martyr. This is Saint Columba, who was born in Spain, of rich but heathen parents. God bestowed on her, from her early youth, so strong an inclination to the Christian faith, that she could never be persuaded by her parents to worship the gods. As she found no opportunity, under her father’s roof, of being instructed in the faith, she fled from her home, and, accompanied by several companions, went to France, although she had hardly reached her sixteenth year. At Vienne, in France, she was instructed in the Christian faith, and baptized. From Vienne she went to Sens, where, entirely devoted to prayer, fasting and other good works, she converted many souls to God by her edifying life. The Emperor Aurelian, well known as an enemy to the Christians, came to Sens, searching for the faithful, either to force them to abandon their God, or to execute them, Columba and her companions were among the first who were brought before him.. He asked her, who she was, and whence she came. She fearlessly answered: “I am a Christian, as are also these, my companions; and neither flatteries, promises, menaces, nor the most painful death, will be able to make one of us forsake the faith of Christ.” The tyrant, enraged at this answer, ordered all of her companions to be beheaded before her eyes, hoping that this would alter her determination. For the same reason; he had her cast into a dungeon, until the following day, when she was again brought -before him. Speaking to her most kindly, he promised to mtike her the spouse of his own son, if she would obey him, and sacrifice to the gods. Columba replied: “I am already united with Christ, and neither honor, riches, torments, nor death itself, can make me faithless to Him. But thou, O Emperor! shalt not escape eternal torments, if you dost not’ repent and worship the only true God.” Such freedom of speech roused the tyrant’s wrath. He knew that nothing was more! painful to Christian virgins than the loss of their chastity; but. Columba, having called on God for aid, was protected from all, harm. An insolent youth, who had approached her, saw that she was surrounded by a bright light, and had not the courage to touch her, but, running away, he cried aloud: “Truly, the God whom Columba worships is the only true God.” When the tyrant was informed of this, he had the chaste virgin scourged, torn with iron combs, and then thrown upon a burning pyre. Finally, when a heavy rain had extinguished the flames, the Christian heroine was beheaded. Her holy body, by command of the Emperor, remained for a long time unburied, but was: afterwards interred, with great solemnity, by Count Albertus, whose sight had been restored by touching it. God has wrought many miracles through* the intercession of Saint Columba. Hence, many churches and convents have been erected in her honor, as at Vienne, in France, where she had been baptized, and at Sens, where she had dwelt. At Cologne, on the Rhine, the principal parish church is named after this holy virgin and martyr. Saint Eligius, bishop of Noyon, founded a chapel in her honor, at Paris, wherein her relics reposed in a silver casket, made by order of king Dagobert. The holy bishop Lupus daily visited her shrine, and desired to be buried at the feet of the holy martyr. Saint Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, when he, as was related yesterday, remained for some time in the monastery of Saint Columba, at Sens, passed also daily some time in prayer before her shrine. In so great esteem was the holy virgin and martyr held by these great men.

Practical Considerations

• Anysia and Columba, two holy virgins, are tempted to sin, but both resist courageously and earnestly. They spurn those who would incite them to evil, and remain unharmed. What I have told you several times during the year, I here repeat: learn from these two virgins how you should act when tempted to sin. Think first, how you ought to regard those who tempt you; they are devils, or tools of the devil. Hence you must treat them as you would treat the devil, were he to appear visibly before you. Would you receive him kindly, or allow him anything that is wrong? I do not think so. Therefore, act in the same manner towards those who tempt you to sin, because they are devils or tools of the devil. Secondly, both holy virgins never permitted themselves to be touched. In this they acted rightly, and you must follow their example; for, had they permitted it, they would surely have fallen into greater sin, and at last have been condemned. And this is what you must expect, if you permit what our holy virgins refused. “Whoever allows kissing,” says the venerable Bede, “knocks at the door of hell, and will soon fall into it, if he does not quickly draw back.” Thirdly, both holy virgins resisted with all their might, and so remained unharmed. You must act in the same manner. You must not show yourself weak, but strong and fearess; you must use all your strength. Spit upon such devils, though they be aristocratic devils; cry aloud for help and resist with all your force. The Angels honor such fights, and you will gain the respect of the whole world, besides the glory which will be prepared for you in heaven. Both our holy virgins now enjoy the honor of the world; and how great must be their happiness in heaven! Shame and dishonor will be your lot on earth, and eternal torments await you in hell, if you allow a devil in human shape to persuade and overcome you.

• Saint Anysia gave her rich, inheritance to the poor, the sick and prisoners, that she might not, by misusing it, fall into vice and thus perish. Saint Columba leaves her house and prefers to be poor in a foreign land and obtain heaven in the true faith, than remain at home and go to perdition. Behold the sacrifices the saints made to escape damnation and save their souls. What are you doing? What have you done during the past year to save your soul? Do you believe that, living as you have done and as you do, you will escape damnation and go to heaven? May I not say, with the very best reason, the same words that Saint Columba said to the wicked Emperor: “You will not escape the eternal pains, if you do not repent and do penance.” Yes, yes, I say to you, without any hesitation, if you will not do penance, change your life, and work with great zeal for your salvation, you will not escape the eternal torments. If you desire to escape them, do penance immediately, and without any delay; for, who knows whether you will live a year hence, and whether you will have then, as now, an opportunity to work out your salvation. Thousands will not, because death will call them into the other world. May not the same happen to you? “As we do not know,” writes Saint Augustine, “when we shall be called away from this world, let us go without delay, from the left to the right. We must neither trust to health nor to youth. Let us begin a better life, while we possess the means to do so.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Anysius, Virgin and Martyr, and Saint Columba, Virgin and Martyr”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 June 2018. Web. 18 June 2018. <>