Saint of the Day – 26 July – St Parasceva of Rome (Died c 180) Virgin Martyr, Confessor. Born near Rome in the 2nd Century and died by beheading in c 180. Patronage – invoked against blindness, healer of the blind.
Parasceva was born in a village near Rome, likely during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138). Her parents, Agathon and Politia, were Christians of Greek origin and had prayed for many years to have a child. When Politia finally bore a child, she was born on a Friday, the day of Our Lord’s suffering. They, therefore, named the baby girl Parasceva, meaning “Friday” in Greek (literally “preparation (day)” for the sabbath – cf. Mark 15:42). Parasceva grew up to be a devout and well-read woman, who rejected many suitors.
After the death of her parents, she gave away all of her possession and became the head of a Christian community of young virgins and widows. She also began to preach the Christian faith and at the age of 30, left Rome and ministered in many Towns and Villages.
In the Village of Therapia, Constantinople, she was arrested by soldiers of the Emperor Antoninus Pius and brought to trial. The charge was blasphemy and they charged her with inciting resistance to authorities. Antoninus Pius attempted to convince her to denounce her faith and even offered to marry her. Parasceva refused and was beaten and tortured by having a steel helmet lined with nails placed on her head and tightened with a vice. No pain seemed to affect her and her endurance caused many to convert to Christianity. Eventually, at his wit’s end, Antoninus Pius demanded that Parasceva be immersed into a large kettle of oil and tar. However, she emerged from even this unscathed. When she was accused of using magic, she responded by throwing the liquid into the Emperor’s face. He was blinded, and desperately asked for her help. Antoninus Pius regained his sight. This miracle moved him to convert to Christianity and set Parasceva free. Neither die he persecute Christians thereafter.
However, after the death of Antoninus Pius, the laws changed once again under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. A plague struck the Roman people and many, including Marcus Aurelius, considered Christians responsible for angering the gods. Parasceva was again arrested amongst many other Christians in a City governed by a man named Asclepius, who threw her into a pit with a large snake. She, however, made a Sign of the Cross and the snake fell asleep or dead. Just as with Antoninus Pius, Parasceva ‘s miracle converted Asclepius to Christianity and he released her. She continued to travel from Town to Town, preaching the Faith.
Finally, Parasceva was arrested for the last time by a Roman official named Tarasius and taken to the Temple of Apollo. Upon entering the Temple, Parasceva made a Sign of the Cross and all the idols in the Temple were instantly destroyed. Instead of converting the onlookers to Christianity, however, they became enraged, and beat her. Taracius then had her beheaded.
Her remains were eventually taken to Constantinople. Although it is not certain when or how her relics reached Constantinople, it seems that they were exhibited there in around 1200 to pilgrims.