Who is a virgin martyr? What are they known for?
Virgin martyrs are essentially a “demographic” of a female saint. There isn’t any particular way that a virgin martyrdom might happen. The Catholic Church has upheld the virgin martyrs as examples for us. To us, it's gone back as far as the Church has been a living, breathing mother to us.
A virgin martyr is a woman who has consecrated her life to Christ and out of the virtues and graces she receives in that relationship with Jesus she is willing to lay down her life in defense of the purity that she has and the union she has formed with Christ. That plays out in many different stories and in many different ways for each virgin martyr.
What helped sustain these women through temptation, torture, or anything that they faced?
The resilience and strength that these women had was a response to grace that they were receiving from God. They were willing to offer their life as a gift and die a painful death, but that was just a response to the love and the grace they were receiving from Jesus. St. Agnes, St. Lucy, and St. Agatha (who are a few of the virgin martyrs) had a deep and specific call to be married to Jesus. In the early early church, there were many consecrated virgins who had given their life to Christ. These women have a very specific call from Christ to be intimate with Him and consecrate themselves to Him.
In times and places where it is dangerous to be christian, that was often the reason these women were discovered. They would be betrothed to a man and that would be the time where they would refuse to compromise their devotion to Christ. The specific virtue they possess, which is associated with purity, is temperance. A definition of temperance is steadfastness, decisiveness, devotion that is unwavering.
How can we look up to the virgin martyrs?
The thing that puts these women in a category together, more than their death & their ultimate sacrifice at the end of their life, is the way that they lived and embraced the plan God had for them. These women clung to Him their entire life and gave Him a little “yes” everyday. We all need to practice giving God our “little yes” every day if we are going to be able to have the grace & the practice to give big yes’s.
Even though the chances of you or me being a virgin martyr. The virgin martyrs are a part of a broader and larger community of women who have spanned the history of the church and are around us today. You don’t have to die a martyr to die a saint and a person who embraces purity.
What is one piece of advice you could give every young Catholic woman?
We need to cultivate silence. Jesus desires to be with us in our silence. All Christians need to hear this but, for women we sometimes feel a particular pressure to earn salvation, to earn a place in the world, to earn respect. Jesus does not ask us to earn our salvation. All he asks for is all that we are. All he asks for is everything we have and to just be with Him.