December 5, 2017

Saints Flora and Mary--Betrayed by their Families and Martyred for their Faith

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Many people have suffered the heartache and pain of being betrayed by someone close them, oftentimes a family member. There is a saint we can all turn to for spiritual and moral support when or if this ever happens to us. Her name is Flora and she and her best friend, Mary, died together for the faith they loved.

During the 9th century, the Muslims invaded and conquered large parts of what is today, Spain. One area was known as Al-Andalus. It was from this conquered area where forty-eight Christians were put to death for their faith. These are known as the Martyrs of Cordoba. These people were executed from 851 to 859. They were all convicted of violating Sharia law, their crimes ranging from apostasy to blasphemy (apostasy is proclaiming another faith other than Islam and blasphemy is denouncing Muhammad or anything Muslim. All carry the death penalty).

Among these brave Christians who stood tall for their faith while knowingly facing such horrendous consequences were two young women; one was named Flora, the other, Maria.

Flora's was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mom. When she was still a child her father died and her mom raised her as a Christian. She had an older brother who was Muslim and as she grew older he tried to convert her to Islam.  Flora was adamant that she would not turn against Jesus. Her brother, exasperated, turned her into the authorities. Flora was sent to a prison and a Muslim scholar was assigned to convert her to Islam. Somehow Flora escaped and made her way to Christian settlements.

During this same time, Mary had been born to a Christian father, who was also a deacon in the church, and a Muslim mom. Her mom had been baptized a short time after getting married. Mary's parents, fearing being charged as "apostates", left their home and headed to a town considered a safer place, Fronianus.  It was shortly thereafter that Mary's mother died.

Mary's dad, fearful for his daughter's safety, sent her to a convent in a place called Cuteclara. While praying at St. Acislus Church she met Flora, who arrived around the same time. They had much in common. Flora's Muslim brother wanted to have her killed as an apostate. Mary's dad had just been executed.

A genuine and deep friendship quickly developed between the two young women and they became inseparable.  The convent's Mother Superior told Maria how her two sons were executed by the Muslims thirty years earlier and how they had made her watch them as they suffered and died. Maria was horrified and the story was foremost in her thoughts. Flora and Mary, fortified by their profound Christian faith and the strength they shared through their deep friendship, decided to turn themselves into the Muslim authorities. They would suffer and die together for Jesus.

In the culture of that time to be branded a prostitute was considered worse than death. The Muslim court, in an attempt to break the two women, sentenced them to a brothel so they would have to endure the shame and humiliation of being a prostitute. Flora and Maria never wavered from their values and faith. They were beaten and scourged but never gave in. The authorities gave up and they were taken out and beheaded. Both girls are listed in the Roman Martyrology.

St. Flora is known as the patron saint of those who have been betrayed. After her dad passed on Flora's own brother tried to convert her to Islam and, having failed, turned her over to the authorities knowing full well she would be put to death. I cannot imagine having my own brother turn me in knowing I would suffer death at the hands of an executioner. Flora did pray for her brother before she was killed. A role model of forgiveness for us all

                                 copyright ©Larry Peterson 2017