St Christina healing oil
St Christina of Bolsena is venerated as a Christian martyr of the 3rd century. She was venerated at Bolsena by the fourth century.
The existence of Christina herself is poorly attested. Some versions of her legend place her in Tyre, other evidence points to Bolsena. Inscriptions found on the site confirm that this martyr had a name like Christina. The local community was venerating her as a saint by the end of the fourth century. Some corroborating evidence is provided by a sixth-century mosaic in the basilica of St. Apollinare Nuovo at Ravenna, which includes in its procession of virgins a saint named Christina, wearing a martyr’s crown.
Christina is an early virgin martyr with a legend some may believe to be too fanciful to have much historical credibility. Nothing is now known about her life. But by the ninth century, an account of her martyrdom was composed, which developed many variants.
She was born into a rich family, and her father was governor of Tyre. By the age of 11, the girl was exceptionally beautiful, and many wanted to marry her. Christina’s father, however, envisioned that his daughter should become a pagan priestess. To this end, he placed her in a special dwelling where he had set up many gold and silver idols, and he commanded his daughter to burn incense before them. Two servants attended Christina.
Martyrdom of St Christina
According to accounts, one time Christina was visited by an angel, who instructed her in the true faith. The angel called her a bride of Christ and told her about her future suffering. Christina smashed all the idols in her room and threw them out the window. In visiting his daughter, Christina’s father, Urbanus, asked her where all the idols had disappeared. Christina was silent. Then, having summoned the servants, Urbanus learned the truth from them.
Urbanus had his daughter tortured because of her faith, but God thwarted his efforts on several occasions. The nature of the torture varies with each telling and can include iron hooks, grilling by fire, placement in a furnace, torture on the wheel, assault by snakes, assailment by arrows, and other assorted methods which she survives. After her father’s death, his successor, Dion, continued to torture her. Christina is eventually beheaded.
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. Applying the oil while praying is important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.