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Saint Dorothy, Virgin and Martyr

The Liturgical Year

Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B

February 6

Saint Dorothy

Virgin and Martyr


Today again, it is one of the most amiable of Christ’s brides that comes to console us by her presence; it is Dorothy, the simple and intrepid virgin, who strews the path of her martyrdom with prodigies of sweetest charity. The religion of Christ alone can produce in timid women, like the saint of to-day, an energy which at times surpasses that of the most valiant martyrs among men. Thus does our Lord glorify His infinite power, by crushing Satan’s head with what is by nature so weak. The enmity put by God between the woman and the serpent, (Gen. 3:15) is forever showing itself in those sublime Acts of the Martyrs, where the rebel angel is defeated by an enemy whom he knew to be weak, and therefore scorned to fear; but that very weakness, which made her victory the grander, made his humiliation the bitterer. Surely, such history must have taught him how powerful an enemy he has in a Christian woman ; and we, who can boast of having so many heroines among the ancestors of our holy faith, should cherish their memory, and confide in their protection, for their intercession is powerful with Him for whom they died. One of the noblest of these comes to us today; let us celebrate her victory, and merit her patronage.


The lessons given in the Dominican breviary are so much fuller than the legend of the Roman liturgy that we have not hesitated to insert them here.

The holy virgin Dorothy, of Cesarea in Cappadocia, was apprehended by Apricius, the governor of that province, for professing the faith of Christ. She was put under the care of her two sisters, Chrysta and Callista, who had apostatized from the faith, and would be able to shake the resolute constancy of Dorothy. But she brought them back to the faith, for which they were burnt to death in a cauldron. The governor ordered Dorothy to be hoisted on the rack, and she said to him, as she lay upon it : ‘ Never in my whole life have I felt such joy, as I do to-day.’ Then the governor ordered the executioners to burn her sides with lighted lamps, and beat her for a very long time on the face, and finally behead her with the sword.

While she was being led to the place of execution, she said: ‘I give thee thanks, O thou lover of our souls, that thou callest me to thy paradise!’ Theophilus, one of the governor’s officers, hearing her words, laughed, and said to her: ‘Hear me, bride of Christ!  I’ll ask thee to send me some apples and roses from this paradise of thy Spouse.’  Dorothy replied: ‘Well, and so I will.’ Before she was beheaded, she was allowed a moment for prayer; when lo! a beautiful child came to her, bringing with him in a napkin three apples and three roses.  She said to him: ‘Take them, I pray thee, to Theophilus.’ Then the executioner struck her head off with his sword, and her soul fled to Christ.

While Theophilus was jocosely telling his fellows the promise made him by Dorothy, he sees a boy bringing him in a napkin three fine apples, and three most lovely roses, who, as he gave them, said: ‘Lol the most holy virgin Dorothy sends thee, as she promised, these gifts from the paradise of her Spouse.’  Theophilus was beside himself with surprise, for it was February, and the frost most sharp; but taking the gifts he exclaimed: ‘Christ is truly God!’ He openly professed the Christian faith, and courageously suffered for the same a most painful martyrdom.

The missals and breviaries of the Middle Ages contain several pieces in honour of St. Dorothy. The following is one that was used in Germany, and is most appropriate for the season of Septuagesima.



Psallat concors symphonia,

Laudes pangat harmonia,

Cum sonora melodia

Cordisque tripudio.


In hoc festo laetabundo

Dorotheae, corde mundo,

Sono plaudat vox jucundo

Neumatum praeludio.


Generosa Christi verna

Labe carens, et lucerna

Mundo lucens, ac pincerna,

Vina donans mystica.


Paradisi tu colona,

Quae pro malo reddis bona,

Scribae mittis coeli dona

Rosas, mala pistica.


Vitam ducens angelorum,

Dum in carne praeter forum

Carnis vivis, spernis torum

Viri propter Dominum.


Martyr Christi quae profanos

Deos sternis, ac paganos

Fide vestis, et sic sanos

Mores facis hominum.


Tota manens speciosa,

Velut rubens fragrans rosa,

Ad conflictum roborosa,

Minante Fabricio.


Vinculata carceraris,

In catasta cruciaris,

Vultu caesa flagellaris,

Omni carens vitio.


Gens perversa males spei

Quam dum doces verbum Dei,

Lumen tuae faciei

Conterit cum baculis.


Furens auget tormentales

Poenas saevas et lethales,

Dum mamillas virginales

Tuas cremat faculis.


Supplicamus: nos tuere

Et peccata fac timere,

Martyr sancta, confer verae

Tempus poenitentiae.


Virgo bona, crimen terge,

Victum dona, mores rege,

Ne damnemur gravi lege

Causa negligentiae.


Sponsa Christi Dorothea,

Tua nos virtute bea,

Ut purgata mente rea,

Digni simus praemio.


Deum nobis fac placatum,

Ut post hujus incolatum,

Sed et locum det optatum

In coelesti gremio. Amen.

Let tuneful instruments breathe forth concordant strains, and harmony sound forth her praise, and we, with joyous heart, sing sweet melodious hymns.


’Tis the pure-hearted Dorothy’s happy feast; let our

glad voices, led on by the organ’s peal, proclaim her praise.


O noble and sinless handmaid of Christ! O bright lamp shining to the whole world! O cup-bearer, that profi’erest us rich mystic wines !


Child of paradise, that payest evil with good, and givest to thine enemy roses and fragrant apples of heaven.


Thou leadest the life of an angel, and whilst in the flesh, livest not according to the flesh; seeming to be spouse of man, because betrothed to Christ.


Thou art his martyr too, trampling on the pagan gods ; and, giving faith to infidels, convertest them from madness to wisdom.


Red fragrant rose 1 nothing could impair thy beauty. ‘Fabricius may threaten what he lists, thou hast a heart brave enough for all.


Chains and prisons, racks and buffets, thou sufferest all, yet innocent, deserving none.


Wicked men, whose hopes were bent on evil, beat thy beaming face, for that thou darest to teach them the word of God.


But they could increase their tortures, keen and deadly as they were ; furiously, then, they burn thy innocent breast.


O holy martyr! we beseech thee, protect us, get us a fear of sin, and pray that time be given us for true repentance.


Kind virgin! pray for us that our sins be cleansed, our souls be nourished with grace, our lives well regulated, that so we be not condemned for negligence by God’s dread law of justice.


O Dorothy, thou spouse of Christ! may thy merits draw down his blessing upon us; and we be found worthy of the reward that he gives to those whose souls are free from sin.


Render our Lord propitious to us, and beseech him to give us, after our sojourn here, the longed-for place of rest in the bosom of his heaven. Amen.


Thy promises, O Dorothy, are faithful as thyself. In the garden of thy heavenly Spouse, thou forgettest not the exiles on earth. How fortunate was Theophilus to have had one of thy promises! He asked for fruits and flowers; he received them, and with them the richer gifts of faith and perseverance, which we also would now ask thee to send us. Thou knowest our wants. We want courage to conquer the world and our passions; we want the grace of conversion; we want the spirit of penance, without which we can never reach that heaven of our vocation, where we are to be thy companions in bliss. Promise us thy prayers, and we shall not fail. And on the grand day of Easter we are preparing for, our souls, having been purified in the Blood of the Lamb, will be as fragrant as the fruits and as fair as the flowers thou didst send to a pagan, whose prayer was less confident than ours.


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