We, as Orthodox Christians, are surrounded by examples of men and women who led normal lives, but even through the darkest of times, they did not waiver from their Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes I wonder if I could truly follow their example. Today, I would like to reflect on a saint whom I truly admire and to whom have been given the titles ‘Holy’, ‘Great Martyr’ and ‘All-praised’. She is Saint Euphemia and her Feast Day is celebrated on July 11.

The Holy and Great Martyr Euphemia, the All-praised, was a young woman martyred for Christ in 304 AD. She was raised by Christian parents and she held to her faith no matter the cost. The Governor was forcing people throughout the town of Chaldea to offer sacrifices to the pagan god Ares. Euphemia was simply living her life as a Christian and not seeking to make a statement, but when people came to her home asking her to deny Christ, she refused to abandon her faith.

Representatives of Governor Priscus went door to door and finally found Euphemia and others with her. The men at the door urged her to recant Christ and become pagan promising her earthly blessings; but when she said no, they took her and tortured her.

She suffered harsh torments. The young Euphemia was tied to a wheel with sharp knives, which cut her body. Saint Euphemia emerged unharmed from this and many other tortures. Finally, she was sentenced to a public death at an arena to be devoured by wild beasts. She implored the Lord to deem her worthy of a violent death. In the arena, not one of the beasts attacked her. Finally, one of the beasts gave her a small wound on the leg, and immediately she reposed. She received her crown of martyrdom.

Sometimes I wonder if I would be as strong as this young woman Euphemia.

In my parish of Saint Demetrios in Tucson, Arizona, we have a young Eritrean couple with a growing family. They came to the United States as refugees, having been raised by devout Orthodox Christian parents. While the wife of this young family was settled in Tucson, her brother, Haile, was settled in Libya, with his wife and a beautiful baby daughter. One day members of ISIS were going door to door in their small village in Libya and they came to Haile’s home. The men at the door urged him to recant Christ and accept Islam, offering him an opportunity to live. But, when he would not renounce Christ, they took Haile and tortured him for two months, moving him from prison to prison, suffering untold torments.

Finally Haile was dressed in an orange jumpsuit and was taken to a public beach in Libya. That day in April 2015, Haile and 29 other men were videotaped while being shot or beheaded for their faith. Haile lived by his faith and died by his faith, refusing to renounce Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He was brutally beheaded and has received his crown of martyrdom.

Haile was simply living his life and taking care of his family, and following the teachings of the Orthodox faith when that fateful knock came to his door. His martyrdom may never be as widely known as Saint Euphemia, but I know Christ honors all His Saints.

I hope and pray I would do the same given the same circumstances as Haile. May his memory be eternal!