Today, 7 September, is the feast of St Regina, a young virgin martyr from Alise-Sainte Reine, France, just a few miles from Flavigny-sur-Ozerain where I spent 32 years of my life. St Regina is dearly loved by the monks of Flavigny, the main reason being that her relics were kept and guarded by the monks for over a thousand years in the ancient abbey of Flavigny. Her relics, saved at the time of the revolution thanks to some God-fearing faithful, are now in the village church of Flavigny, but the monks of Abbaye Saint Joseph have a significant relic in their possession. And there is also a first class relic of St Regina at Notre Dame Priory in Tasmania, a well guarded and venerated treasure…
According to tradition, Regina, having embraced the faith, consecrated her virginity to Christ. It so happened that a local lord fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. But this was impossible, for Regina had already given her heart to the King of Kings. Her refusal would cost her her freedom and finally her life: after being imprisoned, she was tortured and martyred. For centuries, she watched over the monks of Flavigny, and now we ask her to watch over and bless too our fledgling community in Tasmania.
The place of her martyrdom also happens to be the very same place where Julius Caesar obtained his definitive victory over the Gauls in the century before Christ. Tradition tells us that there was once a stone inscription at the place of her martyrdom which read: “Here Caesar conquered Gaul; here a Christian virgin conquered Caesar.”
There is much more to this epitaph than poetical expression: there is a very profound lesson and deep theology. Caesar conquered Gaul by strategy and the force of arms. It was an astounding feat, one that would have long-lasting consequences — very good ones actually —for Gaul, for the Roman domination is what would allow the Gospel to reach what would later be known as France within the first generation of Christians. But Regina conquered Caesar — here of course, Caesar refers symbolically to the Roman authority at the time — with other weapons, the weapons of her faith and her virtue. She conquered as all martyrs conquer: by allowing her body to be put to death so that her soul might live forever with Christ.
Does this not contain a very profound lesson for us today, tossed around as we are with novel ideas and practices which seek to take our soul from us? All the grave moral issues which rock the Church and the world today (abortion, adultery, same-sex “marriage”, gender ideology, child abuse, etc.) all have the same root problem and the same root remedy. The problem is impurity, and the answer is chastity.
Saints like Regina are there to remind us that there are no situations which are outside of God’s providence. There are no situations in which we have to sin or are allowed to sin. Faith and chastity are always and everywhere possible. But they demand both humble prayer and courage.
Those who know how to practice them are victorious, even over the modern Caesars. Those who give in become prey to the whirlwind of passing ideology, and lose their soul on the altar of impurity. The battlefield is the heart of every human being. Whose side shall we be on? I choose Regina.
Saint Regina, Pray for Us!