Saint of the Day – 24 December – St Trasilla (Sixth Century) Virgin, Aunt of Saint Pope Gregory the Great (540-604). Born as a Roman citizen and died on 24 December, in the 6th Century, year unknown. St Trasilla is usually mentioned with St Emiliana, her sister and, therefore, also St Gregory’s Aunt but her Feast day is celebrated on 5 January. Also known as – Tarsilla, Tharsilla, Thrasilla.
The Roman Martyrology reads today: “At Rome, the birthday of the holy Virgin, Trasilla, Aunt of St Gregory, Pope, who writs of her that at the hour of her death, she saw Jesus coming to her.”
What we know of her life was recorded by the holy Pope, who was deeply moved by her model of Christian life and virtue.
Born in Rome, Trasilla and Emiliana were the daughters of Senator Gordian and Saint Silvia. Nieces of Pope Saint Felix III, the young women were destined for lives of holiness and together, while quite young, renounced the world. As young women, they together consecrated themselves to the Lord, desiring to stay pure.
Their house was as a convent and the two spent so much time kneeling in prayer that their knees and elbows arthritically locked in the position of prayer. Living as hermits, they encouraged one another in the ways of the faith, drawing deeper and deeper into the spiritual life.
Trasilla had a third sister, Gordiana, who had initially made the same vows and consecrated herself to the Lord. Gradually, however, she withdrew from her sisters, returning to the world. Their reproaches fell on deaf ears and caused them significant sadness and grief.
Saint Trasilla died prior to Saint Emiliana but not before she received a vision of her Uncle, Saint Pope Felix. In her vision, the late Pope appeared to her, showing her a place of great beauty. He said, “Come, I will receive you into this habitation of light.” Immediately, she fell ill with fever. Her sister ministered to her but to no avail. By the following day, her illness had grown worse. Saint Trasilla, in agonising pain, called out to those around her; “Make way! Jesus is coming!” With her eyes fixed firmly on Heaven, she died soon thereafter and a heavenly fragrance filled the room, confirming her visions.
And just as she had been visited by a vision of St Felix, so she too visited her sister, Emiliana from Heaven.
St Gregory the Great recounted the tale of his Aunts throughout his lifetime. He used it to illustrate the point that we must work constantly to save our souls, repenting for our actions. To Saint Gregory, there is no point in beginning the work of salvation, if we do not plan to see it through to the end. As we prepare for the birth of Our Lord, we look to our own commitments. Are we ready to greet the Infant Christ, come to redeem and save us?
Tonight, we echo the sentiment of Saint Trasilla: “Make way! Jesus is coming!” How might we use this dark night—lit by the choirs of angels—to prepare for the coming of the Lord?