Saint Julia of Carthage

Julia was a Carthaginian girl who born of noble parents in South Africa. When she was still quite young, her city was conquered by barbarians. Julia was captured and sold as a slave to a pagan merchant, but she did not complain or feel sorry for herself. She accepted everything, and performed the most humble tasks with wonderful cheerfulness. For Julia loved God with all her heart. In her spare time, she read holy books and prayed fervently.

Her new master, Eusebius, was a pagan and he admired so great a virtue in service. When Julia’s duties were done and she was granted the servant’s time off, she spent her spare time either in reading or insisting on praying. She grew pale and thin from fasting despite the threats and blandishments of her master, but her mind, intent on Heaven, fed daily on God’s words.

One day her master decided to take her with him to France. On the way, he stopped at an island to go to a pagan festival. On that day they were slaying a bull “to their devils”. Julia refused to even go near the place where they were celebrating. She sighed deeply for their error and did not want to have anything to do with those superstitious ceremonies.

The governor of that region was very angry with her for not joining in the pagan feast. “I heard that there is a girl who derides the names of our gods,” he cried. Disrespecting the state gods was a crime punishable by death, which the magistrate could only overlook at his own risk.

Julia’s owner answered that he was not successful in moving Julia from the superstition of the Christians. He said, too, that although he had not been able to make her give up her religion, still she was such a good, faithful servant that he would not know what to do without her.

The governor then gave him some options: “Either compel her to give offerings to our gods, or give her to me in exchange for whichever four of my handmaidens please you, or for the price that was set for her.” Eusebius replied: “If you wanted to give me all your property it would not come to the value of her service.”

Having gotten counsel the “most poisonous serpent” prepared the banquet, where Eusebius became intoxicated and fell into a deep sleep. Straightway “a raging mob of gentiles” boarded the ship and placed Julia on the shore and threatened her to worship their gods.

Julia replied, “Libertas mea Christi servitium est, cui ego quotidie pura mente deservio. Ceterum istum vestrum errorem non solum non veneror, verum etiam detestor.” Or ‘my liberty is the service of Christ, whom I serve every day with a pure mind. As for that error of yours, I not only do not venerate it, I detest it.’

The tribune ordered that she be struck blows to the face. That done, she said that as Christ was struck for her, why should she not be struck for him? Then “the most cruel serpent” ordered that she be “tortured by the hair”, later described as mollitia, “diminishment” of her hair. Then she was flogged, to which she replied in the same way, that if Christ was flogged and crowned with thorns for her, why should she not endure this diminishment of the hair, which she calls the vexillum fidei, the “flag of faith?” The “serpent”, fearful of being indicted for cruelty, hurried the process along by ordering “the handmaiden of Christ” to be placed on the patibulum of a cross. Eusebius was awakened. As he let go the bonds of sleep, the saint, with mind released from the flesh, victress over suffering, took happy flight with the angels to the stars of heaven. Another manuscript cited by Ruinart has a columba, a “dove”, flying from her mouth.

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