St Pelegia Penitent
This saint had been a comedian at Antioch, even while she was a catechumen; but
afterwards renounced that profession, and became a true penitent. The manner
Basil. The patriarch of Antioch having assembled a council of bishops in that city, St.
Nonnus, one of the number, was commissioned to announce the word of God to the
people. Accordingly he preached before the church of St. Julian martyr, in the
presence of the other bishops. During the sermon, Pelagia passed that way richly
adorned with jewels; and her beauty, heightened with all the elegance of dress,
drew on her the attention of the whole assembly, except the bishops, who turned
away their eyes from so scandalous an object. But Nonnus, looking earnestly at
Pelagia, cries out in the middle of his discourse, "The Almighty in his infinite
goodness will show mercy even to this woman, the work of his hands." At these
words she stopped suddenly, and, joining the audience, was so touched with
remorse for her criminal life, that she shed abundance of tears; and immediately
after the sermon she addressed herself to Nonnus, imploring him to instruct her how
to expiate her sins, and to prepare her for the grace of baptism. The holy penitent
distributed all her goods among the poor, changed her name from Margaret to
Pelagia and resolved to spend the remainder of her life in the exercise of prayer, and
the austerities of penance. After her baptism, which she received at the hands of
Nonnus, she retired to Jerusalem, and having taken the religious veil, shut herself up
in a grotto on Mount Olivet, in the fifth age. Phocas, a monk of Crete, in the relation
of his voyage from Palestine in 1185, describes Mount Olivet, and the grotto where
the saint completed the martyrdom of her penance, and where her relics were
preserved in an urn. St. Pelagia is mentioned on this day in the Roman Martyrology,
and in the Greek and Muscovite Calendars; but in an ancient inscription on marble in
Naples, on the 5th of October. See her life written by James, deacon of Heliopolis in
Syria, an eyewitness of her conversion and penance, ap. Rosweide, Vit. Paty. p.374.
The same is found in an ancient MS. in foho, on vellum well preserved, which
formerly belonged to the abbey of St. Edmundsbury in England, and is at present in
the author's possession Phis MS. Contains a fine collection in Latin of the lives of
the Father of the desert, which Rosweide published from MSS. found in different
libraries of the Low-Countries. It were to be wished that the learned Jesuit had
either suppressed, or distinguished by some mark, two or three spurious pieces,
which are evidently the work of modern Greeks. See also Theophanes in his
Chronology, under the year 432; Nicephorus Callixtus, &c.
[1] Butler's Lives of the Saints.
Lives of the Saints