December 18 – Zoe at Rome; Samthann

Zoe at Rome (d. ca. 286) was a jailer’s (or nobleman’s) wife who was unable to speak for six years (no “chatty wife” jokes please). She saw a vision of an angel holding the Collected Writings of Saint Sebastian, sought him, found him, and fell down at his feet. Before he could help her up, she made signs requesting his prayers for her healing. He made the sign of the cross over her, and she immediately began glorifying Jesus (out loud). She and her husband Nicostratus then received Christian baptism. (Which is the best kind, if your goal is to become a Christian.)

Sebastian asked for a chance to speak to the prisoners, so Nicostratus had his assistant jailer Claudius send them over. When they all requested baptism, Sebastian sent for the priest, who bade them fast until sundown. Claudius dropped by to say the Eparch wanted to know why the prisoners weren’t in jail. When Claudius heard about Zoe’s healing, he fetched his two sons so they could be healed. Everybody was baptized, and they all fellowshipped happily together for some time, until they were martyred. Zoe was the first to go, hung by her hair and slowly roasted over a fire of burning dung (which stinks). After her death she appeared in a vision to Sebastian to tell him of her martyrdom.

Samthann (d. 739) was the daughter of an Irish king, who married her against her will to some nobleman. She convinced her husband to delay the consummation of their marriage until everybody had gone to sleep, and then prayed up a storm. Or rather, prayed up a fire, which put the town into such a dither that she was able to escape. As soon as she was safe, the fire went out, leaving no damage, unless somebody stubbed their toe or something. In the morning her father found her. He chided her for running away, and she chided him for marrying her off against her will. “Whom would you rather marry?” he asked. “God,” she said. “Very well, you shall be married to God.” With her husband’s permission, she went to an Abbey.

The foundress of Clonbroney Abbey had a dream in which Samthann appeared as a flame and burned the entire monastery. Naturally, Samthann was sent for and made abbess (I know; me neither). She ruled the abbey well, guiding many souls and performing many wonders. On the night she died, she appeared in the form of a star to a certain abbot, who blessed her and watched her rise into the heavens.

And now some stories. Samthann learned a certain man was imprisoned by a king. She sent a messenger asking for the man’s release, but the king refused. She sent another, saying, “Since you will not release him, I will.” The king doubled the prisoner’s chains and set two watches. That night the man’s chains fell off, and he walked out of his cell. “Who are you?” asked the first watch. “Fallamain the prisoner.” “As if. He’s all chained up. Get lost.” Fallamain climbed over the wall to avoid the second guard, and arrived safely at Samthann’s monastery.

A lascivious monk once came to Clonbroney, and decided to seduce one of the nuns. They agreed to meet on the far side of the stream, but while he was wading across, an eel affixed itself to his, um, bits, and wound itself around his waist. It could not be removed until the monk came before Samthann and begged her forgiveness.

Samthann once sent a message to a certain monk, saying that he was her favorite monk, and asking (a) whether he accepted women for confession, and (b) would he accept her soul friendship? The monk “blushed to his breast,” and was silent a long while, finally replying, “Tell her I will be happy to seek spiritual advice from her.” When told this, Samthann said, and I quote, “I think something will come of that youth.”