The Catholic Defender: The St. Thecla Story
At the time when Jesus began His public Ministry in 30 A.D., a baby girl was being born in Iconium (ancient city of Asia Minor, the modern city Konya ,Turkey). This baby girl was named Thecla born into a wealthy home and given the best education of the time. Thecla excelled in the arts and literature and she was fascinated about learning about the philosophy of the times.
Being raised in Paganism, Thecla wanted to know more about the unknown god that she had yearned to know. Thecla often would pray, "O mysterious Being who made me out of nothingness, if you exist, if you love me as I believe, make yourself known to me".
By the time Thecla was 18 years old (about 48 A.D.), in accordance with the customs at the time, her parents wanted to find a husband for their beautiful Daughter. Tamiridus was a logical suitor as he was from a rich family. However, it was about 50 A.D. that Thecla was near the Caster and Pollux Temple when she heard the preaching of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas.
St. Paul was preaching, “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one* the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’* as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
This preaching in-kindled Thecla who from a young girl had been wanting to hear this information and come to know the One True God. St. Paul spoke to Thecla of the love of God as Our Father, creator of heaven and earth and of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the salvation of all who would accept him.
Thecla soon fell in love with the Worship of the Mass, the Consecration of the Eucharist and the love of God. Finally, Thecla was Baptized into the Catholic Faith through the hands of the Apostles. This did not go well with Thecla's Parents, nor with Tamiridus who learned of Thecla's conversion who chose to live fully for Jesus Christ.
Tamiridus complained to the Governor accusing Thecla of following this new Way that would be called Catholic and Christian from Antioch. Thecla was threatened severely if she did not renounce Jesus and follow the Pagan gods of Rome. This she refused.
Eight days later, the Governor called for a great spectacle at the arena having Thecla brought there to him. She was beautiful as she walked in the arena. After rejecting the Governor's plea for her to renounce Christ, the Governor ordered for a large stake to be brought in for all to see. Soldiers were instructed to tie Thecla to the stake which they had piled wood around her. Then they were ordered to light the fire.
What the crowd witnessed was through the fire and smoke that choked those near the stake, Thecla centered in this hot fire was not harmed. As the fire was lit, she made the Sign of the Cross plainly seen by all. The flames seemed to illuminate Thecla's beautiful radiance as her gaze was centered fixed towards the sky.
The Governor's frustration began to show as the fire had no effect on Thecla and the people took notice. He ordered that Thecla be taken away by heavy guard to Antioch where she would be thrown to wild beasts.
At Antioch, a great crowd gathered at the Colosseum where Thecla was to be made the spectacle. A lion was released that appeared terrifying as it was freed in the arena. The lion prowled about until it noticed Thecla. The crowd witnessed the lion roaring and moving towards Thecla only to see the lion begin to purr and lay down at her feet licking her toes. Angry, the Governor called for another lion in which this lion came up to Thecla rubbing up against her like a tamed house cat.
Next, the Governor brought in two wild bulls to have Thecla tied to them but the ropes broke and Thecla remained unharmed. At this point, it was Thecla 3 and the Governor 0 in this action and the Governor tried one more idea, he had Thecla lowered into a pit of poisonous snakes, but yet again, she was unharmed singing praise to God.
Finally, the Governor set Thecla free where she retired to a nearby cave out in the country. People from all over who had heard how she was not harmed from all the Governors attempts to have Thecla killed, were taught about the love of God and His Son Jesus. There were many conversions to the Catholic Faith as a result of her witness.
In the year 120 A.D. and age 90, St. Thecla became known as the first Catholic woman martyr because she would have died if not for the protection coming from the hand of God.
A Prayer to the Holy Martyrs to Obtain Their Protection
O ye blessed Princes of the heavenly kingdom! ye who sacrificed to the Almighty God the honors, the riches, and possessions of this life, and have received in return the unfading glory and never-ending joys of heaven! ye who are secure in the everlasting possession of the brilliant crown of glory which your sufferings have obtained! Look with compassionate regards upon our wretched state in this valley of tears, where we groan in the uncertainty of what may be our eternal destiny. And from that divine Savior, for Whom you suffered so many torments, and Who now repays you with so unspeakable glory, obtain for us that we may love Him with all our heart, and receive in return the grace of perfect resignation under the trials of this life, fortitude under the temptations of the enemy, and perseverance to the end. May your powerful intercession obtain for us that we may one day in your blessed company sing the praises of the Eternal, and even as you now do, face to face, enjoy the beatitude of His vision! Amen
(St. Alphonsus de Liguori)