(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, St. Dominica, comes from Volume 1 of the series.)
The life expectancy of a late-fourth-century Carthaginian was something less than half of what it is today, but one of the African city’s most illustrious daughters lived for a full century, most of which was spent in the service of Jesus Christ. St. Dominica was born in Carthage in 384, the daughter of middle-class parents who afforded her the finest in education but not in religion. The pagan household, for all its comfort and enlightenment, lacked the shining truth of the love of Jesus Christ, a spiritual deprivation that the bright girl might not have known for her one hundred years had she remained in Carthage, clinging to her ancestors’ false beliefs.
St. Dominica was twenty-one years old when the magnificent capital city of Constantinople marked fifty years beyond completion by Emperor Constantine the Great as his center of the Byzantine Empire. The city’s glorious heritage and culture, not its religion, fired the imagination of this polished young lady, and she prevailed on her parents to allow her to visit the capital. Together with four other young ladies of her social circle she went to the Byzantine metropolis, where she delighted in the cultural advancements of Hellenism and the grandeur of the sprawling city.
What impressed Dominica most, however, were the high ideals of the Christian community, and she felt compelled to explore the new religion of Jesus Christ. So great was her desire to become a part of Christianity that she was granted an audience with the Patriarch Nektarios, who was so taken with the girl from Carthage that he personally offciated at her baptism. She was by then twenty-three years old and had received religious instruction from the fathers of the Patriarchate. A willing student, she ingratiated herself with all whom she came to know and felt in her heart that the service of Jesus Christ was what she desired more than anything she had discovered since coming to Constantinople.
Before she embarked on this career in religious service, she dutifully reported to her parents who, up to this point, were completely unaware of her conversion and were reluctant to grant her permission to seek what she protested was the single important thing in her life, but which her parents viewed as a waste of the talents they had encouraged in her early years. It was inconceivable to them that a life of asceticism for a girl of intelligence and spirit could be the result of anything but madness, and she was urged to once again assume her place in the society into which she had been born, a life that promised comfort and pleasure. She thanked her parents for all they had done for her and finally was able to convince them that what she chose to do was the highest order.
Back in Constantinople, Dominica entered the service of the Lord at the age of twenty-five, what she considered to be an advanced age for a novice, little knowing that she had been allotted a span of one hundred years of life, more than time enough to make up for her late start. Meanwhile, her four companions had followed with more than a passing interest the heartwarming activity of their dedicated friend, and all five entered the same convent in joint service to the Savior.
Unlike many pious Christians whose road to glory was strewn with the obstacles of ignorance and ended with agonizing death, the next seventy-five years in the long life of Dominica were spent in comparative serenity and uninterrupted service to the Christian community and to God. She made full use of a life span of biblical proportion, and if she suffered any great tragedy or misfortune, it was never recorded.
The passing years were kind to Dominica, and as she aged her reputation as a tireless worker in the vineyard of Christ spread throughout the empire. Those privileged to visit with her saw in Dominica a spark of divine grace, and in the course of her ministrations she wrought miracles of healing. Alert to the end, she was granted the title of “Righteous” in recognition of her long and distinguished service of God.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.