Monday, October 29, 2012

Bl. Briolaja: Tattooed Eucharistic Visionary

São Bento de Cástris in Evora.
Yesterday’s section of the Menology included one of my favorite entries:
At Evora, Portugal, Blessed Briolaja, Virgin, who, despising the alluring prospect of marriage proposed by her parents, decided to take Christ for her Spouse. She was specially noted for her strict silence, and bore upon her breast the image of Christ Crucified, in order to banish form her mind all thought of earth. She often beheld the Angels assisting the Priest at the Holy Sacrifice and in the Consecrated Host she beheld Jesus, either as a Child, or nailed to the Cross crowned with thorns. Sometimes she beheld in the Sacred Mysteries the Priest covered all over with blood, or crowned with perfumed flowers. The holy Altar where the Victim of peace was offered to His Eternal Father, appeared to the holy Virgin in prayer surrounded with Heavenly splendor. Yet in all these rare and magnificent visions, she remained always humble in spirit, and passed at length from this mortal life to glorious Immortality.

Bl. Briolaja’s visions are, to say the least, over the top by contemporary standards, but I think they offer a wonderful testament to both the reality and drama of the Holy Sacrifice in an earlier time. I have always been particularly struck that she seemed to see no contradiction in seeing the celebrant either covered with blood or crowned with flowers.  Then there's that image of Christ crucified on her breast.  A birthmark?  An allusion to some form of the stigmata?  The silences of the Menology are often more confusing than its prose and, sadly, my complete lack of knowledge of Portuguese has kept me from ever discovering anything more about her.

The Convento de São Bento de Cástris in Evora was founded in 1274 and closed in 1890 with the death of its last nun. It then passed into the hands of the state, serving as an orphanage and agricultural college. The church includes some fine tile work depicting the life of St. Bernard.

(Image source.)