When any of you think about the Saints, do young people ever come to mind?
Some of the great Martyrs of the Church were young people, and in this group is included a 15 year old teenager. You may be thinking to yourself: How does that even happen?
This means that there were people who publicly proclaimed their love for Christ and they were young. They were kids, teenagers, and young adults, meaning they were not pappou and yiayia, grandma and grandpa. This means that young people loved Christ so much that they were willing to give everything they had for Him. Christ was first in their hearts, even though they were made fun of and threatened, even though they encountered sufferings and even death – something perhaps unimaginable for us.
Someone whom our Church refers to as a “Great Martyr” in her official title, a “Great Martyr” because of the many sufferings she endured for the sake of Christ, was a 15 year old. This 15 year old’s name was Marina.
Now her life was not one that was a walk in the park. She did not grow up having it easy. In fact, it was anything but that. She lost her mother when she was still a baby. Marina though had come to learn about Christ through the life of the woman who took care of her after her mother’s death. However her father, a pagan priest, disowned her after Marina revealed to him that she wanted to be a Christian. Can you imagine being disowned?
And if that was not bad enough, she was picked on by a political ruler who wanted to marry her because she was a beautiful girl. That’s how it was in those days. He offered her riches and all kinds of luxury, not to mention the glory and the prestige that comes with being the wife of a ruler, but she had to deny Christ. Marina would not deny Christ. She grew to love the Lord. Marina
Saint Marina suffered many things because she would not deny Her Lord. At age 15, she was arrested and locked up in prison. She was beaten and had her body torn and burned. She was humiliated by being stripped and tied to a tree. She was thrown into a cauldron of hot water to be drowned. Yet, from the many wounds, she was healed on repeated occasions by the Archangel Michael whom the Lord sent to strengthen her. Marina would say “Nothing will separate me from Christ.”
Saint Marina’s story comes to us as inspiring yet also challenging. Think about it. We have many churches throughout the world dedicated a 15 year old teenager. We are not even talking about a football player here. We are talking about a teenager. Her icons are all over the place. Many girls have been named after her, a 15 year old. People of all ages kiss the icon of a 15 year old teenager.
While we may not be threatened with death at this moment in time, society does not always help us in living a Christian life. We can be made fun of and ridiculed. We can be seen as weird and strange. It can hurt when people mess with our feelings, when we are made to feel small and insignificant because we are trying to live a Christian life. It can be hard to say I want to go to church when other things like a football game or eggs benedict at a Sunday brunch seem to be life-saving activities when we know that true joy lies in Christ and never in opposition to Christ. Don’t get me wrong..I love eggs benedict and I love the Philadelphia Eagles as a Philly native, but the point is Christ comes before the eggs benedict..and…even the Philadelphia Eagles.
Where do your priorities lie? How much of a priority is Christ in your life? How much do you love Christ? I want you to think about this. How much do you love Christ? Remember, you can be a Saint.
There is always hope because you, each and every one of you, has value – infinite, priceless, special value – especially the young people. Christ died and rose from the dead for you too! Saint Marina shows to you that you have value and she is calling you to reach out your hands and join her team.