May 31, 2021: ST. PETRONILLA
May 31, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF ST. PETRONILLA, VIRGIN
Thou disdainedst the pleasures and honours of the world, and thy virginal name is one of the first on the list of the Church of Rome, which was thy mother.
Give ear to us, o God, our Saviour, that as we celebrate with joy the solemnity of blessed Petronilla, thy Virgin, so we may improve in the affection of piety. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
St. Petronilla was converted to the Faith by St. Peter, and later ministered to him. She died toward the latter half of the 1st century.
About the 1st Century
Though the Church makes but a simple commemoration of this illustrious Virgin, in the office of this day, we will not fail to offer her the homage of our devout veneration. On the twelfth of this month, we kept the feast of the noble Virgin and Martyr, Flavia Domitilla; it is probable that Aurelia Petronilla was also of the imperial family of the Flavians. The early traditions of the Church speak of her as being the spiritual daughter of the Prince of the Apostles; and though she did not, like Domitilla, lay down her life for the Faith, yet she offered to Jesus that next richest gift,—her Virginity. The same venerable authorities tell us, also, that a Roman Patrician, by name Flaccus, having asked her in marriage, she requested three days for consideration, during which she confidently besought the aid of her Divine Spouse. Flaccus presented himself on the third day, but found the palace in mourning, and her family busy in preparing the funeral obsequies of the young Virgin, who had taken her flight to heaven, as a dove that is startled by an intruder's approach.
In the 8th Century, the holy Pope Paul the First had the body of Petronilla taken from the Cemetery of Domitilla, on the Ardeatine Way. Her relics were found in a marble sarcophagus, the lid of which was adorned, at each corner, with a dolphin. The Pope had them enshrined in a little Church, which he built near the south side of the Vatican Basilica. This Church was destroyed in the 16th Century, in consequence of the alterations needed for the building of the new Basilica of Saint Peter; and the Relics of St. Petronilla were translated to one of its Altars on the west side. It was but just that she should await her glorious Resurrection under the shadow of the great Apostle, who had initiated her in the Faith, and prepared her for her eternal nuptials with the Lamb.
Another account of St. Petronilla, Virgin.
Among the disciples of the apostles in the primitive age of saints, this holy virgin shone as a bright star in the church. She lived when Christians were more solicitous to live well than to write much: they knew how to die for Christ; but did not compile long books or disputations, in which vanity has often a greater share than charity. Hence no particular account of her actions hath been transmitted down to us. But how eminent her sanctity was we may judge from the lustre by which it was distinguished among apostles, prophets, and martyrs. Her name is the feminine and diminutive of Peter, and she is said to have been a daughter of the apostle St. Peter, which tradition is confirmed by certain writings quoted by the Manichees in the time of St. Austin, which affirm that St. Peter had a daughter whom he cured of a palsy. That St. Peter was married before his vocation to the apostleship we learn from the gospel; though St. Jerom and other ancient fathers testify that he lived in continency after his call. St. Clement of Alexandria assures us, that his wife attained to the glory of martyrdom; at which that apostle himself encouraged her, bidding her to remember our Lord. But it seems not certain whether St. Petronilla was more than the spiritual daughter of that apostle. She flourished at Rome, and was buried on the way to Ardea, where anciently a cemetery and a church bore her name; so famous that in it a station or place for the assembly of the city in public prayer, was established by Gregory III. She is commemorated in the true Martyrology of Bede, in those which bear the name of St. Jerom, &c.
The saints, whether in sickness or in health, in public or in private life, devoted all their thoughts and actions to God, and thus sanctified all their employments. The great end for which they lived was always present to their minds, and they thought every moment lost in which they did not make some advances towards eternal bliss. How will their example condemn at the last day the trifling fooleries, and the greatest part of the conversation and employments of the world, which aim at nothing but present amusements, as if it were the business of a rational creature to divert his mind from thought and reflection, and forget the only affair, the business of eternity.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - The Paschal Time, Vol. II, Dublin, Edition 1871;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. V, 1821; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Petronilla, pray for us.