The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 33:5)
Last month I was given the great blessing of attending my church’s Sacred Music Institute, a conference for chanters and choir directors from around the country. We learn, talk, work, make friends, eat good food, and most of all, sing.
Just before we all parted ways on Sunday morning, the priest gave a sermon that has been lodged in my heart ever since. He began by reading a brief summary of the life of St. Christina, a fourth-century martyr:
Christina was born in the city of Tyre the daughter of Urban, the imperial deputy, an idol worshipper. The reason her parents gave her the name of Christina is unknown but it concealed the mystery of her future following of Christ. Until age eleven, she knew nothing of Christ. When she reached the age of eleven her father, in order to conceal her from the world because of her extraordinary beauty until she fully matured, designated the highest floor of a tall tower for her to live. All the comforts of life were afforded her; slaves were given to serve her, gold and silver idols were placed in her quarters so that she may offer daily sacrifices to them.
However, in this idolatrous environment, it was difficult for the soul of young Christina. Looking out through the window each day at the sun and all the beauty of the world, then again, at night, at the miraculous cluster of shining stars, Christina, through her own natural understanding, came to firm belief in the One Living God. The merciful God, seeing her longing for the truth, sent His angel, who traced the sign of the cross upon Christina and called her the bride of Christ and completely instructed her in godly understanding.
Hearing these words, I could do nothing but weep. There is, after all, hope for the world, if one soul — even only one — can have such faith, finding God on the strength of its own purity. And if there is hope for the world, I suppose there is hope for me, too.
The rest of the story is considerably less beautiful, but it ends with an honorable death amid numerous miracles for this holy young girl who continues, many centures later, to inspire and encourage her brothers and sisters in Christ.