Making Catholic Memories: St Barbara
If you will indulge us, we would like to start this article with a brief story. Once upon a time there lived a young girl whom her parents loved with all their hearts. She was taken from them, however, by an evil witch who wanted the young girl for herself. The witch locked the girl in a hidden tower and allowed her only to gaze out of the window as her only connection with the outside world.
Eventually, the girl’s beauty was noticed by a handsome prince who eventually climbed the tower to rescue her. That girl, as I’m sure you know, was named Rapunzel and that story was first written by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. However, there is another young, beautiful girl who shares a similar fate. Her story was real, however, and it happened more than 1500 years earlier in the time of the Roman persecution of Christians. Her name is St. Barbara, and her feast day is December 4th.
In the middle of the second Century near what is modern day Tuscany, Italy, Barbara lived with her father who was a rich and powerful pagan ruler named Dioscorus. As she grew, her father noticed how beautiful she was and wanted to protect her from the outside world. So, he locked her in a tower with only one window and allowed only her pagan tutors to enter and leave her room. When she was left alone, Barbara would spend her time gazing out the tower window and was moved by the beauty of creation. Eventually, she came to believe in the Christian God and made a private vow of consecrated virginity. When she was old enough in her father’s eyes, she was allowed out of the tower for a short period of time. During that time, she met with other Christians and grew evermore in love with her faith, with Jesus Christ and with His Church. While she was away, her father had a private bath house designed for Barbara with two windows. She had the architects add a third window in the design in honor of the Holy Trinity. After her own secret baptism here, this tower became a source of many healings. Ultimately, she told her father that she would not marry any of the suitors he was beginning to present to her and that she would no longer worship his idols. This enraged her father who beat her, locked her up again, and starved her. He then handed her over to the executioners who tortured her cruely before beheading her. Until the very end, she never gave up her faith in Jesus Christ.
St. Barbara is one of those saints stories that seems to have transcended time and cultures. In fact, her story is the original inspiration for the story of Rapunzel. Instead of being rescued by a charming prince, Barbara was dazzled by the King of Kings. Instead of being stolen by an evil witch, Barbara’s own father was trapped by the evil that led him to treat her with cruelty. And yet, through it all, the beautiful Barbara had the grace and courage to follow her heart to the source of Love. This December, let us pray that we and our children may see the beauty of creation and be drawn to a greater love for the Lord.
To commemorate St. Barbara, who is the patron of architects, we will be making an edible tower with three windows.
This article appeared in the December 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.