Friday, December 4, 2009

Saint Barbara

Patron U.S. Army Field Artillery

Barbara lived in the 4th century and brought up as a heathen. A tyrannical father, Dioscorus, had kept her jealously secluded in a lonely tower which he had built for that purpose. Here, in her forced solitude, she gave herself to prayer and study, and contrived to receive instruction and Baptism in secret by a Christian priest.

Barbara resisted her father's wish that she marry. Then on one occasion, during her father's absence, Barbara had three windows inserted into a bathhouse her father was constructing. Her purpose was thereby to honor the Trinity.

Dioscorus was enraged by her action and by her conversion. So he himself denounced her before the civil tribunal. She was horribly tortured, and at last was beheaded. Her own father, merciless to the last, acted as her executioner. God, however, speedily punished her persecutors. While her soul was being borne by angels to Paradise, a flash of lightning struck Dioscorus, and he was hurried before the judgment seat of God.

The life of St. Barbara is a vivid reminder that there can be much anger in our world and in our lives. Being in touch with God's presence in a very special way can do much toward relieving ourselves of our tendency to allow anger to control us. We should pray often against a sudden and unprovided death; and, above all, that we may be strengthened by the Holy Viaticum (Last Sacraments) against the dangers of our last hour.
St. Barbara's military angle:

Saint Barbara is generally believed to have been the daughter of the Dioscurus, who lived near Nicomedia in Asia Minor (today Izmit, Turkey) in the third century AD. Legend tells us that Barbara converted to Christianity and Dioscurus, a heathen, denounced her and ordered her brutally tortured and killed by beheading in the year 235. After her death Dioscurus was immediately struck dead by a bolt of lightening. Veneration of her as a saint was common since the seventh century.

She was later canonized by the Catholic Church and relics of mortal remains asserted to be those of St. Barbara are currently housed in churches in Burano, Italy, and Kiev, Ukraine. Due to her reputed ability to draw lighting from the heavens she began to be associated as the patron saint of almost anything to do with military explosives around the 1400s when gunpowder found its way to Europe.

Saint Barbara today is the Catholic patron saint of US Naval Aviation Ordnancemen (AO), artillerists, anti-aircraft gunners, ammunition magazines; ammunition workers; armorers; artillery; artillerymen; bomb technicians; fortifications; and military engineers-specifically sappers and pioneers. The Artillery arms of the Polish, Greek, Croatian, Spanish, Italian, British, Canadian, and Australian, most Latin American armies as well as many others refer to St Barbara as their patron.

In many Latin militaries the magazine of a fort or warship is even referred to as a "Santa Bárbara" in the Spanish language in honor of the Saint and images of her are often found in such places as icons.

In the United States the Ancient and Honorable Orders of Saint Barbara are honorary military societies based on the legend of Saint Barbara and inducts both current and former members of the US Army and Marine Corps artillery branches into its ranks. Its membership is controlled by the U.S. Field Artillery Association.

There is also a the Society of the Sons of Saint Barbara that is open to any descendant of a Confederate artilleryman, be he a member of a horse artillery unit, an artillery battery or battalion, or a coastal defense unit.

Her feast day is December 4th and many of these society's hold formal dinners in her honor to celebrate.

•4 December

•removed from revised Roman calendar and cultus suppressed in 1969

A beautiful maiden imprisoned in a high tower by her father Dioscorus for disobedience. While there, she was tutored by philosphers, orators and poets. From them she learned to think, and decided that polytheism was nonsense. With the help of Origen and Valentinian, she converted to Christianity.

Her father denounced her to the local authorities for her faith, and they ordered him to kill her. She escaped, but he caught her, dragged her home by her hair, tortured her, and killed her. He was immediately struck by lightning, or according to some sources, fire from heaven.

Her imprisonment led to her association with towers, then the construction and maintenance of them, then to their military uses. The lightning that avenged her murder led to asking her protection against fire and lightning, and her patronage of firefighters, etc. Her association with things military and with death that falls from the sky led to her patronage of all things related to artillery, and her image graced powder magazines and arsenals for years. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

While there were undoubtedly beautiful converts named Barbara, this saint is legend, and her cultus developed when pious fiction was mistaken for history.


•beheaded by her father c.235 at Nicomedia during the persecution of Maximinus of Thrace
•relics at Burano, Italy, and Kiev, Russia
Read more about this amazing female Saint here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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