St. Barbara

St. Barbara is one of the fourteen holy helpers, a group of ancient saints who were venerated together starting in the middle ages. She is also well-known as a patron saint for anyone who works with explosives including miners, artillerymen, military engineers, and armorers. 

Lifetime: Mid to late 200s
Region: Lebanon
Patronages: Lightning; Miners; Chemical engineers; Prisoners
Iconograpy: Chalice; Tower; Lightning; Artillery; Crown
Feast Day: December 4

Barbara, like many of the early saints, was the daughter of a rich pagan man. After the death of Barbara's mother, her father had her locked in a tower to keep her protected from the outside world until he could find a suitable husband for her. Sort of like Rapunzel, but without the long hair.

However, while she was locked up, Barbara secretly converted to Christianity and pledged her virginity to Christ. Thus when her father did come back with men he had selected for her to marry, she rejected them all. Her father thought that maybe some freedom to explore the city would open Barbara's mind a bit, so he let her out of her tower for the first time in years.

Unfortunately for Barbara's father, this opportunity only led to Barbara meeting other Christians, who taught her more about God the creator of the universe, Jesus his son and our redeemer, and the Spirit that lives in the hearts of all believers. She was baptized by a traveling priest disguised as a merchant.

During Barbara's jaunt, her father had a private bathhouse built for her. When she returned, she loved the gift, but asked for it to have three windows put in, though she didn't say why she was so enamored with the number three, the symbol of the Trinity. In later years, this bathhouse would become a place of many miracles and much healing.

Barbara's father had to go on a journey without her. He hoped that by the time of his return, Barbara would finally see things his way and agree to a husband. But when he got back, Barbara refused to worship the pagan gods with him, and finally admitted that she had become a Christian.

Barbara's father became irate. After all he had done for her, now he knew why she wouldn't marry, and he knew that it would never change. She was his only child, and with her mother dead, she was his only way to pass on his legacy, and she had thrown it all away to worship her new God! He got so mad, he tried to kill her with his sword.

During her father's outburst, Barbara only prayed for peace and help from God. And just before he swung his sword at her, a portal appeared in the wall, which Barbara jumped through, appearing miraculously at the top of a nearby mountain. Her father however had seen where the portal led, and began running after her.

Desperate for a place too hide, Barbara prayed again, and a rift opened up in the mountain big enough for her to hide in. Two shepherds who were letting their sheep graze on the mountain saw this and were amazed. But soon after, Barbara's father arrived. He got to the top of the mountain, but couldn't find Barbara anywhere, just the two shepherds.

He asked the shepherds if they had seen a woman appear on the mountain. The first shepherd said that they hadn't seen anyone up here, hoping to protect Barbara from the wrath of her father, but the second betrayed her and pointed to the crevice in which she hid. Immediately, his sheep all turned to bugs and he became a stone statue.

Barbara's father grabbed Barbara by the hair and dragged her back down the mountain. He had her thrown in a prison, and she was tortured every day, told that if she would just make a sacrifice to their pagan gods, she could go back to her old life. But every day she refused, and every morning all her wounds miraculously healed.

Since the torture wasn't working, they decided to try shame. Barbara and another Christian woman in prison were stripped naked, to be paraded through the town to be completely humiliated. But Barbara and the other woman prayed for God to protect their modesty, and God delivered. An angel came down, covering them with its glorious robes so that none could witness their nakedness.

Finally, her father had enough. He sentenced her to death by beheading and personally cut off her head. The moment his sword sliced through her neck, lightning struck out of the sky and killed him as punishment, reducing him to a pile of ashes in moments. Another bolt struck the man who had tortured her as well.

A pious man buried Barbara in a tomb he had planned to be buried in himself when he died. That tomb became the site of miracles, with many sick healed, prayers answered, and consolations received. Her relics have been moved several times in the centuries since, and today are located in St. Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine.

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