A native of the town of Tartus in Sicilia, Saint Pelagia was born into a noble family connected to the Imperial court of Rome. When word about her beauty and intellect reached Rome, an adopted son of the emperor Diocletian offered her his hand in marriage. But Pelagia was already a Christian. Her Christian friends had told her about Christ. She believed and resolved to live as a maiden all her life, dedicating herself to Him.
In her life of Christian service, she knew many trials and sorrows. She tried to bring the light of Christianity to her mother, but she was unmoved. At the end of the conversation, her mother sent a note to her suitor telling him that Pelagia was a Christian, and had no intention to marry him. Distraught, he killed himself by falling on his sword.
Yet, For her piety and prayer, she was endowed with the gift of a visionary and miracle worker. In her dream, she had a vision of Bishop Linus, whom she had not met before, imploring her to take baptism from him. She met him by pure chance, on her way to her nurse who cared for her as a young child. She recognized him immediately and fell to her knees to be baptized by him. When he performed the sacrament, a spring flowed from the ground, and angels covered her head with a white mantle.
Saint Pelagia lived during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284- 305) when Christians were persecuted, and many died as martyrs. Pelagia’s mother was anxious to avoid blame for the death of her daughter's young suitor and feared the emperor's wrath. She put her daughter in shackles and delivered her to the Emperor's court. The emperor was enthralled by her beauty and proposed to marry her. She promised her a life of luxury, all the riches she could dream of, the best clothes and the most exquisite food. She disdained his advances, saying she did not desire the worldly crowns that last for a while. Hearing that, the emperor sentenced her to be burned in a red-hot furnace.
She made the sign of the cross and walked bravely into the flame. Her flesh melted and became flagrant myrrh. Her bones, undestroyed, were taken from the flames and taken outside the city. Four lions came to guard them against animals until Bishop Linus came and buried them with honour. Years later, a church was built above her grave that still stands today.
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