St. Irene VM, Feast 3 April, and Companions Agape and Chionia

St. Irene VM, Feast 3 April, and Companions Agape and Chionia

(Irene means "Holy Peace"), murdered at Thessalonica, Macedonia, April 5, 304. The martyrdom of Irene's sisters Agape and Chionia took place on April 3, and the martyrdom of all three is confirmed by valid records. In 303, Emperor Diocletian issued a decree making it an offense punishable by death to possess any portion of sacred Christian writings. Irene and her siblings, daughters of pagan parents living in Salonika, owned and hid several of the forbidden volumes of Holy Scriptures.

The sisters were arrested and Chionia and Agape were sentenced by Governor Dulcitius to be burned alive because they refused to consume foods offered to pagan gods. Meanwhile, their house had been searched and the forbidden volumes discovered.

Irene was examined again, and said that when the emperor's decree against Christians was published, she and others fled to the mountains. She avoided implicating those who had helped them, and declared that nobody but themselves know they had the books: "We feared our own people as much as anybody."

Irene was sent to a soldiers' brothel, where she was stripped and chained but was miraculously protected from molestation. So, after again refusing a last chance to conform, she was sentenced to death. She died two days after her sisters either by being forced to throw herself into flames or, more likely, by being shot in the throat with an arrow. The books, including the Sacred Scripture, were publicly burned.

Three other women and a man were tried with these martyrs, of whom one woman was remanded because she was pregnant. It is not recorded what happened to the others.

In art, this trio is represented generally as three maidens carrying pitchers, though they may be shown being burned at the stake. They are also venerated in Salonika.

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