I always thought my parents named me after my grandmothers. Being especially fond of them both, I told everyone with no small amount of joy and pride that I was named after both my father's and my mother's mother: Christina Marie. Yet my family rarely called me Christina when I was growing up. They all thought it was "too big a name for such a tiny person" and nicknamed me Tina. This was fine by me; I never liked my name until I got to college and learned that Christina means "one who is of or follows Christ." It was at this time that I took my name seriously and strove to live up to it. I felt very blessed to have such a special name. It brought back happy memories from my childhood name day celebrations. How could I have ever thought that Christina was not a suitable name for my parents to give me? The life of this great martyr is one of courage, beauty, and love.
The details of the life of St. Christina vary depending on which account of her life you read. However, the core text of these accounts is the same. We are told that she was born in the coastal city of Tyre (in modern day Lebanon) in the third century. With no mention of a mother or siblings, the focus of her early life is centered on her father, Urban. A wealthy man who sought to protect his daughter from any knowledge of Christianity, he used his ample means to have a huge tower constructed, and St. Christina was "reared within the confines of the tower without restricting her activities, yet assuring that she could never encounter a Christian or even hear of Christianity."1
Although she had the best education possible in these circumstances and lacked nothing material, she soon grew weary of the tower. She derived her only comfort from her walks around the tower terrace, which enabled her to contemplate the wonders of creation and their beginnings.
God in His great mercy, seeing her yearning for the truth, sent His angel to her . . . and instructed her fully in the things of God.2
Zealous in her newfound faith, she sold everything she had and gave it to the poor, and she began to evangelize the pagans around her. She suffered many tortures because of her faith - even having her breasts cut off and her tongue cut out. According to her Life, when her tongue was cut out she threw it in the face of the governor and he was blinded instantly! When she finally died in the year 234, she was laid to rest in a chapel erected by an uncle in her memory.
There are many valuable lessons that can be derived from this moving story of the life and death of St. Christina. However, I wish to focus on only two points: (1) she overcame the difficulties of her upbringing and (2) she fulfilled the call of discipleship.
It is very interesting that Urban so carefully constructed St. Christina's upbringing. He put so much energy into his fears rather than into his relationship with his daughter. He tried - with drastic measures - to control what was beyond his power to control. As a result, Christina was raised in an atmosphere of fear and with a false understanding of reality. She herself had the potential to be a fearful, self-indulgent, and narcissistic person, imprisoned by the circumstances of her life. But when Christ made Himself known to her and broke all her chains of enslavement, she chose to receive this freedom with joy and enthusiasm. By God's grace she was able to discern the True God. She chose not to worship the gods of power, prestige, and materiality.
Her example gives us encouragement in our own struggles to become more like Christ. It shows us that we do not need to wallow in our past brokenness or to blame our present circumstances, whether personal or societal. But, as St. Paul said and as St. Christina shows us,
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfection of our faith. - Hebrews 12:1-2
In Christ Jesus we can overcome any obstacle that keeps us from our true selves.
When she received the gift of new life, St. Christina was able to tear down the tower that had enslaved her and went out to preach Christ to others. She did not become complacent or self-serving in her knowledge of God. Rather, she fulfilled the call of discipleship that is asked of each of us who are baptized in Christ.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16
These words are exemplified in the life of St. Christina, who actively set out to evangelize those around her. We must be like her and strive for God's glory in order to give light to all the world. No one should ever have to guess whether or not we are Christians, nor should our words or actions embarrass or cause them to stumble. Rather, our witness should feed their souls and stir up in them the desire to know Him Who grants us such joy and hope in our earthly struggle.
By the way, I recently discovered that my parents gave me the name Christina Marie because my mother loves the way it sounds in French. A lovely name, Christina Marie, causes me to focus on our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary. After all, by virtue of my baptism, I was named after someone - Jesus Christ. To Him be glory and thanksgiving always and through the prayers and intercessions of St. Christina, may each of us be emboldened with the courage to shine for Him.