Saint Bibiana on Prayer Cloth (Patron for Epilepsy)
Saint Bibiana on Prayer Cloth (Patron for Epilepsy) from A Blessed Call to Love, Ireland.
Her Early Life
Saint Bibiana was a heroic Roman girl, born in the fourth century. She was the daughter of martyrs, Flavian and Defrosa. Her Christian father was apprehended during the reign of Julian the Apostate. He was branded on the face as a slave and banished to Toscany. There he died of his wounds a few days later. Her mother, Dafrosa, was beheaded two weeks later.
Their two daughters, Bibiana and Demetria, after the death of their parents were stripped of all they had in the world and then imprisoned with orders to give them no food. The Roman praetorian offered them rewards if they would abandon their faith, and threatened a cruel death if they would not conform, but they replied courageously that the goods and advantages of this world had no attraction for them, and that they would endure a thousand deaths rather than betray their faith and their Saviour. Demetria, after having pronounced this ardent defense, fell to the ground and expired at her sister’s side; she is inscribed in the Roman martyrology on June 21st.
St Bibiana’s Death
The officer gave orders that Bibiana is placed in the custody of a woman named Rufina, who was commanded to corrupt her or mistreat her. But the martyr made prayer her shield and remained invincible. Enraged at the courage and perseverance of the young virgin, the persecutor ordered her to be tied to a pillar and whipped until she expired, with scourges tipped with leaden plummets. The Saint underwent this punishment cheerfully and died at the hands of the executioners. She was buried by a holy priest at a site where afterward a chapel and then a church was built above her tomb. In 1628 the church was splendidly rebuilt by Pope Urban VIII, and in it he placed the relics of the two sisters and of Saint Dafrosa, their mother.
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.