She’s a holy martyr often mentioned, seldom celebrated

Her memorial is Christmas Day!

By Pedro A. Moreno, O.P.
Director, Office of Hispanic Ministry

Of all days to be assigned a memorial in the Church’s liturgical calendar this saint was assigned Dec. 25. I doubt many parishes celebrate her memorial. Somebody else seems to take all the attention because of his birthday.

On the other hand, she is one of only seven women to be mention, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first Eucharistic Prayer, also known as The Roman Canon. Just before the end, before the concluding doxology, during the Commemoration of the Dead and the intercessions, the part of the prayer where we remember that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with heaven and earth, and that our offering of the Body and Blood of Christ is made for all her redeemed and saved members, both living and deceased, it is there that eight men and seven women martyrs are mentioned.

She is the last martyr named, if none are omitted. Do you know her name?

Here are some details of her life, maybe you’ll remember who she is. She had a mixed family environment. Her father was a pagan; her mother also is a saint. Upon her mother’s death, her father gave her in marriage to another pagan, but she refused to live with her new husband.

During her life, she was known for visiting the incarcerated, especially those imprisoned for their faith, and for tending the sick and suffering, especially those with stomach ailments. When her husband found out about her Christian service in the community he had her arrested, and physically abused her with the hope that she would stop being so Christian. But, she refused to give up on her ministry to those in need.

After the death of her husband, she sold her belongings and gave the money to the poor. Her commitment to Christ and the Good News brought her many problems with the pagans. She was arrested and interrogated, but she never renounced her faith. She did help bury many close friends who were martyred for confessing their faith in public.

She traveled from city to city caring for abused, sick and incarcerated. She comforted the poor, suffering and dying. Close to the end of her life, she assisted in the baptism of more than 100 men.

Sadly, Anastasia was burned to death on Dec. 25 of the year 304 at Sirmium in the Roman province of Pannonia Secunda, known today as Serbia.

Here is the section of the Roman Canon, Eucharistic Prayer I, that mentions her:

“…To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia and all your Saints; admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.”

So, when Christmas come around, and we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, don’t forget the many brothers and sisters who fell so in love with that baby in the manger, and all the love and life that he brought into our world, that they committed their lives to him to the very last drop of their blood.

That is love, born from love, the incarnate word himself. Embrace the Christ child and blessed Christmas.