St. Apolliana of Alexandria
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Apolliana (d.249), a middle-aged deaconess, consecrated virgin, and martyr of the Church. During an anti-Christian uprising in Alexandria, Egypt during the third century, the mob seized Apollonia as a leader among the local Christians. After her teeth were broken with pincers, she was given the choice of renouncing Christ or being burned alive. Apolliana refused to deny her faith, but chose instead an “act of heroic faith.”
Her martydom was described by an eyewitness, Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria:
“The persecution with us did not begin with the imperial edict, but preceded it a whole year. And a certain prophet and poet excited the mass of the heathen against us, stirring them up to their native superstition. Stimulated by him, and taking full liberty to exercise any kind of wickedness, they considered this the only way of showing their piety – to slay us. First, then, seizing a certain aged man, named Metras, they called on him to utter impious expressions, and as he did not obey, they beat his body with clubs, and pricked his face and eyes; after which they led him away to the suburbs, where they stoned him…”
“…Then with one accord, all rushed upon the houses of the pious, and whomsoever of their neighbors they knew, they drove thither in all haste, and despoiled and plundered them, setting apart the more valuable of the articles for themselves; but the more common and wooden furniture they threw about and burnt in the roads, presenting a sight like a city taken by the enemy. They also seized that admirable virgin Apollonia, then in advanced age, and beating her jaws, they broke out all her teeth, and kindling a fire before the city, threatened to burn her alive, unless she would repeat their impious expressions. She appeared at first to shrink a little, but when suffered to go, she suddenly sprang into the fire and was consumed.”
She is the patron saint of dentists and is popularly invoked against toothaches and gum disease because all the pain she had to endure.