ST. PELAGIA, V. M.
SHE was a tender virgin at Antioch, only fifteen
years of age when she was apprehended by the persecutors in 311.
Being alone in the house, and understanding that their errand was to
carry her before the judge, where her chastity might be in danger,
she desired leave of the soldiers to go up stairs and dress herself.
But fearing to be an innocent occasion to others’ sin, threw
herself from the top of the house, and died on the spot by her fall:
in which action, says St. Chrysostom, she had Jesus in her breast
inspiring and exhorting her. She probably hoped to escape by that
means and might lawfully expose her life to some danger for the
preservation of her chastity; but nothing can ever make it lawful for
any one directly to procure his own death.
Whoever deliberately lays violent hands upon
himself is guilty of a heinous injury against God, the Lord of his
life, against the commonwealth, which he robs of a member, and of
that comfort and assistance which he owes to it; also against his
friends, children, and lastly against himself, both by destroying his
corporeal life, and by the spiritual and eternal death of his soul;
this crime being usually connected with final impenitence, and
eternal enmity with God, and everlasting damnation. Nor can a name be
found sufficiently to express the baseness of soul, and utmost excess
of pusill inimity, impatience, and cowardice, which suicide implies.
Strange, that any nation should, by false prejudices, be able so far
to extinguish the most evident principles of reason and the voice of
nature, as to deem that an action of courage which springs from a
total want of that heroic virtue of the soul. The same is to be said
of the detestable practice of duels.* True fortitude incites and
enables a man to bear all manner of affronts, and to undergo all
humiliations, dangers, hardships, and torments, for the sake of
virtue and duty. What is more contrary to this heroic disposition,
what can be imagined more dastardly, than not to be able to put up a
petty affront, and rather to offend against all laws divine and
human, than to brook an injury or bear a misfortune with patience and
constancy, than to observe the holy precept of Christ, who declares
this to be his favorite commandment the distinguishing mark of his
followers, and the very soul of the divine law! Mention is made of a
church at Antioch, and another at Constantinople, which bore the name
of this saint in the fifth century. On St. Pelagia, see the Roman
Martyrology, June 9; St. Chrysostom, Hom. de St. Pelagia. t. 2, p.
592; ed. Ben. St. Ambrose, ep. 37; ed. Ben and1. 3, d Virgin. 1. 7,
and Janning the Bollandist, t. 2, Junij. p. 158.