(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. Tatiani, comes from Volume 1 of the series.)
Although biographical sketches tend to follow a certain pattern, particularly in the case of young women who died for Jesus Christ, there are no two whose lives have been exactly alike, just as no two people of the billions on earth look exactly alike, with the possible exception of identical twins. The similarities among saints have been in their common purpose of serving the Savior, but to say that they are all alike is to say that they have all looked alike, which is hardly the case. The brief life span of St. Tatiani follows the time-honored pattern of living and dying for the Savior, but she had an identity all her own and an individuality both humble and noble, a rare combination.
Tatiani was born during the reign of the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus (223-235), an emperor whose cruelty to Christians also followed the pattern of the early rulers of the Roman Empire, the worst of whom was Julian the Apostate. Tatiani’s father was a man of means who was the overseer of a sizable estate, but he was also a Christian who saw to the spiritual needs of the circle by serving as a deacon. He was one of many of the landed aristocracy who embraced Jesus Christ but were forced to keep their religion a secret, lest they be betrayed by some covetous pagan ever anxious to win the favor of the state by exposing a Christian of high station.
Tatiani and her father looked to the need of those less fortunate than themselves, giving generously of their time and money, bribing officials for the release of Christians from the dungeons, and finding shelter for the many homeless. Tatiani became thoroughly familiar with the maze of catacombs of Rome wherein she helped many of the faithful to elude their pursuers and took risks for her fellow Christians, which she preferred to the safety of her own comfortable home. Her familiarity with what amounted to the underground of ancient Rome was coupled with access to authority which she could easily disarm with her captivating charm to effect escape or release of a hapless victim of the unrelenting persecution.
Tatiani’s father put his trust in one of the many sycophants of the emperor and was ultimately betrayed by this tool of royalty and dragged before a tribunal in humiliating fashion without proof other than the word of the royal foil who bore witness against the benevolent parent. If the accused had so chosen, he could have denied the accusation and perhaps won his freedom because there was no real evidence against him, but when the question was put to him as to his innocence or guilt, Tatiani’s father forthrightly stated that his only guilt lay in a love for his fellow man through Jesus Christ, the Savior. Realizing that this statement alone had condemned him, he chose to say nothing more in his defense and was condemned to death. He chose to die rather than deny Christ.
Tatiani was quite soon thereafter seized and brought before the emperor himself, who saw in the pretty young maiden an opportunity to discredit Christianity. He surmised that with an approach befitting her station she could be won over by his imperial persuasion and be made to return to paganism, thus achieving a triumph over her followers that could not be attained by her being put to death as her father had been. Emperor Severus used his utmost oratorical skill, but when he saw his words were being wasted, he decided on another plan.
Tatiani was taken under armed guard as an enemy of the state and ceremoniously placed in the midst of the idols in the royal temple, where she was ordered to recant and bow to the stone figures. Tatiani did nothing but look around in defiance of those who had crowded to witness the transformation that never came about. It was then that she was flogged unmercifully, lashed to the point where she fell to her knees and she begged God not for help but for a display of his might. The earth commenced trembling as though an earthquake had struck and all the stone idols came crashing onto the floor.
The pagans scattered in terror, but when order was restored, the nineteen-year-old maiden was taken out into the streets where she was tortured anew and then put to death. Her remains were discovered and placed in a chapel in 1634 under Pope Urban VIII. She is commemorated on January 12.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.