Saint Taqla (Thecla) – First Female Martyr – 24 September

Holy Martyr St TheclaSaint Taqla was born to a noble pagan family in the city of Iconium (modern day Turkey) in 30 AD. When she was 18 years she was engaged to be married, until she heard St Paul preaching about Christianity. She was deeply inspired when he spoke about chastity. She was inspired to Christianity, broke off her engagement and vowed to remain a virgin. Taqla’s parents were furious and reported Paul to the authorities and he was exiled from the city. Taqla was told to renounce her Christianity or face being tortured with fire. She refused and was sentenced to death. She escaped the flames when a storm approached and put out the fire. She fled with St Paul to Antioch where she was again sentenced to be eaten by wild animals. Taqla survived when a lioness protected her from the other animals. Witnesses who saw her bravery and the miracle that saved her were also inspired to Christianity. She was later reunited with St Paul and preached the Word of God to many. As a woman, she was unable to travel alone and preach, so she dressed as a man.

In her later years she retreated to the mountains of Syria where she lived a life of solitude and prayer. She died aged 90. Although she was not martyred, she is venerated as a martyr for showing courage in the face of death many times. A community of virgins went up to live in the mountains after her death. The Convent of St Taqla in present day Maaloula in Syria is said to be built around where she died. It came under heavy attack in the Syrian war. The Christians of Maaloula are one of the only remaining communities who speak Aramaic, the language of Christ. Many of the 5000 Christian inhabitants who have lived in Maaloula for centuries were forced to flee as a result of the Syrian war. Forty nuns and young orphans who remained in the ancient monastery of St Taqla during the fighting came under continual attack during that time. Twelve of the Lebanese and Syrian Orthodox nuns were forcibly taken away from the Monastery, but thankfully were later allowed to return. The Christian’s of Maaloula are slowly rebuilding, however many are still displaced. You can learn more about Maaloula at the link.

We continue to pray for the situation in Syria, the Middle East and for the protection of all peoples, especially our Christian brothers and sisters.

St Taqla reminds us to always put Christ first, even when the culture might not. We are called to love God and love our neighbour, including our enemies. We pray that like St Taqla we are courageous and are able to inspire others to live the radical values of Christ.

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