St. Avia in Prison Receiving Communion from the Virgin
Memorial : 6 May
Memorial : 6 May
St. AviA, or Aveze, as she is called in France, according to the legend, was born in Sicily, at the beginning of the 3rd cent. Her father, Quintianus, was a king of that country, and he persecuted the Christians with great fury. But Gerasina, his queen, who was a British lady, believed in Christ, and after a while converted her husband. By him she had nine children, three sons and six daughters. The youngest of the latter was named Avia or Aurea. After the death of King Quintianus, in the year 234, Dioned, king of Cornwall, who had married Dara, sister of Gerasina, began to make preparations for the marriage of his only daughter, the famous S. Ursula, with Holofernes son of the king of Britain . He invited his sister from Sicily to the wedding festivities, and she started for "Cornwall in Ireland," with her daughter Ava, and three other daughters, whose names were discovered by revelation, in the middle of the 12th cent., to Elizabeth of Schonau (d. 1165), and the Blessed Hermann, Joseph of Steinfeld (d. circ. 1230); they were Babila, Juliana, and Victoria, and her youngest son Adrian.
On the arrival of Gerasina and her children at the court of Dioned, Ursula informed her aunt of her intention to evade the projected marriage. Gerasina highly approved of her purpose, and with her four daughters, accompanied St. Ursula on that famous expedition with eleven thousand virgins, which ended in their martyrdom at Cologne (Oct.21 st) at the hands of the Huns.
Only three of the eleven thousand were spared. One of these three was Avia, but her martyrdom was only deferred.
" It must have been very touching," says the Pere Giry, to see this tender virgin, after witnessing the massacre of her mother, her sisters, and all her companions, alone in an unknown land, in the power of barbarians, who had nothing in them human except their faces, and who, to their idolatry and impiety, added a ferocious humour, and a brutality equal to that of the most savage animals, so that like S. Ignatius the Martyr, she might have called them a troop of tigers." She was shut into a prison, but the Blessed Virgin brought three loaves or cakes every day, and passed them to her through the bars of the window.
No menaces, no torments could shake the constancy of the captive. The Huns, either having caught some lions which haunted the forest neighbourhood of Cologne, or having brought the beasts with them from the cold banks of the Volga, turned them into the prison of Avia, but the royal beasts would not touch her. Then the Huns tormented her with savage cruelty, cut off her breasts, plucked out her eyes, and beat her to death.
She is pretended to have appeared in the parish of Ploermel, near Auray, in the diocese of Vannes in Brittany, and that she touched a stone and a fountain. To this day infants are placed on this stone, which is hollowed out in the middle, and are dipped in the fountain, to enable them to walk.