September 11 – Theodora of Alexandria; Ambrose Edward Barlow

Theodora of Alexandria (IV cent.?) betrayed her husband with a seductive neighbor, after having been told by the local soothsayer (who was on commission) that God can’t see things done at night. Dora fell for it, fell into bed, and fell into deep remorse, tearing her hair out and everything. In anguish, she went to the abbess of a nearby monastery and said, “I’m, like, really sinful,” but wouldn’t say what she had actually done. The abbess consoled her, assured her of the forgiveness of God, and read to her from the Scriptures. When she read, “What you do in the darkness will be made known in the light,” Dora saw the light (so to speak). (Clearly, this could have been avoided. Children, read your Bible.) She confessed her whole story, and the abbess again assured her that God forgives, adding, “Do not despair. But next time you’re tempted, come to me and I can help you, k?”

Theodora returned home, but couldn’t look her husband in the face. Knowing this couldn’t go on, and knowing her husband would find her if she went to the convent, she cut off her hair, dressed as a man, and went to a men’s monastery out in the desert. “Can I get an application?” she asked the doorman. “I’d like to become a monk (kof) and repent of my sins.” To test her resolve she was left outside overnight, and when she was still there in the morning, the abbot welcomed her in and gave her a cell. She put “Theodore” on the application, and that’s what she was called.

Sometime later, she was sent to Alexandria to buy provisions, and stayed overnight at a monastery in town. The abbot’s randy daughter, thinking she was a man, began trying to seduce her. “Here we go again,” thought Dora, but this time (not surprisingly) she held out. The daughter managed to seduce another monk, and a few months later, returned in a maternity toga. “Theodore did this to me,” she said, and her dad passed the accusation on to Dora’s abbot. At first he didn’t believe it (Dora was a model “monk”), but by the time the bump became a bawling baby, he had changed his mind. He gave the child to Dora to raise, and drove her out of the monastery.

She and her adopted son homesteaded a hut nearby, and received milk from local shepherds who took pity on them. (Dora ate wild veg.) She was afflicted with diabolical visions, including her husband begging her to return, but when she crossed herself, the phantoms vanished. After seven years, the abbot received her (and Ted Jr.) back, and two years later he learned in a vision or dream or something that Theodore’s sins had been fully atoned for. At this point Dora became a miracle worker, such that when the well went dry, the abbot immediately asked her to fix it, and she did. After instructing her son one last time to be a good Christian, she laid down and died.

Then the abbot learned the truth in a vision, and told everyone the story. When the monks from the town monastery heard, they were beside themselves with remorse. Her husband was invited to her funeral, and moved by her story, moved into her cell. Ted Jr. went on to become abbot.

Ambrose Edward Barlow (1585–1641), son of a Protestant nobleman, converted to Catholicism as an adult. After study in France and Spain, he was ordained a priest, returned to Britain, and began openly practicing his priestcraft, admitting freely, “Yep, I’m a Catholic priest, what are you going to do about it?” You know without guessing what they did about it: he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.