St Euphrosyne (virgin) healing oil
The St Euphrosyne healing oil is dedicated to Saint Euphrosyne, a female saint who adopted male attire and lived at a local monastery as an ascetic. Her feast day is celebrated both in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches on 25 September.
Euphrosyne was the beloved only daughter of a rich man of Alexandria, miraculously born in her parents’ old age in answer to a monk’s prayer. Her loving father, Paphnutius, desired to marry her to a wealthy youth.
But having already consecrated her life to God and under pressure to break her vow, she dressed as a man and assumed the identity of “Smaragdus” (“emerald”). She then escaped to a nearby men’s monastery, where she made rapid strides toward a perfected ascetic life. She was under the guidance of the abbot, who also happened to be the same monk who had prayed for her birth.
Years later, when Paphnutius appealed to the abbot for comfort in his bereavement, the abbot committed him to the care of Euphrosyne, still under the guise of Smaragdus. Paphnutius received from his own daughter, whom he had failed to recognize, helpful advice and comforting exhortation. Not until she was dying did Euphrosyne reveal herself to him as his lost daughter. After burying her, Paphnutius gave up all his worldly goods, and became a monk in the same monastery. There, he used his daughter’s old cell until his own death ten years after.
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Prayer and a gesture of faith, like applying the oil, are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. By doing so we place our trust in God.