On the old liturgical calendar today is the commemoration of Saint Emerentiana, the young, 4th century girl-martyr of Rome. What a beautiful, if unpopular, name. Here she is depicted as particularly lovely, while what she has to teach us is all strength and brightness, like the colored light emanating from her face which looks squarely at us.
Emerentiana was a girl friend to St. Agnes, whose feast day was celebrated just days ago on January 21. Indeed, she had returned to the site of Agnes' martyrdom (or her tomb) where she wept openly. Perhaps the murderers were on the look out for Agnes- sympathizers, because when they spied Emerentiana crying over Agnes, they pulled her up from the ground and murdered her as well when she accused them of their crime.
Emerentiana was first bullied, simply because she cried. Girls, and even more so boys, are ridiculed when they shed tears. Lots of people see tears as a sign of weakness. A boy who cries can be likened to a girl. Sad culture! Sad too that so many men have had their hearts shut down and can no longer cry.
Emerentiana is classified as a virgin-martyr, which perhaps isn't the best term for these young women. They weren't killed for their virginity but for Christ. Girl-martyr might better say it. These were clear-headed and brave girls who stood their ground when everything was against them - even all the power of an empire - needing to shut them up. That's why girl-martyrs had their teeth and tongues cut and knocked out.
And girls are still shut up: when they aren't allowed to be born, when they aren't allowed an education. And women are shut up when they aren't allowed to vote, or drive, or speak publicly, or hold public office, or talk to men other than their husbands, or even appear un-veiled - so to interface with the world.
In art, Emerentiana is depicted holding stones on her lap, which causes some to invoke her as a patroness of stomach disorders. We don't need to bother this brave, heavenly, girl-martyr with acid reflux and the things of colonoscopies. True religion has more important things to concern itself with.
How about this? Do I have the stomach to be a really brave Christ-disciple? Courageous for Christ in the social realm? "I'm not into this justice stuff," the busy church-lady said. The reason so many Christians in the first world never suffer any trouble for Christ's sake is because they keep their religion so private - no concern for or about:
- the common good (fairness for all)
- what real inclusion might require of us (can we even fathom it?)
- living non-violently (even in our thoughts)
- the demands of peace-making (an action, not a wish)
- what mercy and compassion mean (it's not weakness)
- the dignity to be afforded all persons (even the littlest and the weakest)
Do I have the stomach for this? Some people don't even know that these themes are in the perview of Christianity.
Oxfam means Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Recently they reported that the wealth of the richest 1% is equal to the other 99%. That the richest 62 people in the world are as wealthy as half the world's population. A well-known money magazine got on board at once to debunk the Oxfam claim. And when the pope refers to these kinds of global inequalities he's immediately called a Marxist. I wonder if people who use those kinds of terms to discredit even know what they're saying.
In her book, Unnatural Selection ~ (Choosing boys over girls and the Consequences of a world full of men), Mara Hvistendahl claims that as we are aborting girls in so many places around the world that there is now a testosterone imbalance. Which means more wars, more bullying, more aggression.
At this point some Christians throw up their hands in exasperation and say, "There's nothing I can do about any of this!" Being informed isn't nothing. Caring isn't nothing.