St. Pelagia

St. Pelagia was head of a dance troupe in Palestinian Antioch, and lived a life of frivolity and prostitution. One day while she was still a dancer, Pelagia was passing by a church dressed with her very elegant and provocative clothing.

Pelagia was a prostitute in the 4th Century in Antioch. Passing by a church one day dressed in provocative clothes, many looked down to avoid her but Bishop Nonnus of Edessa (now a saint) looked her in the eyes with the love of God. That night the bishop prayed for her soul in his room.

The next day, she found him and asked him why he looked at her like that. No other men had looked at her in that way. He talked with her about God and eternal life. Moved, she went to confession with him and asked to be baptized. She gave her wealth to the poor.

Shortly after, the devil appeared to Pelagia and tried to persuade her to return to her previous life of prostitution, wealth, and sin. She did the sign of the cross and he left her.

She left Antioch for the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and lived as a hermitess dressed in men’s clothing. Sometimes referred to “the beardless monk” it wasn’t until after her death that her gender was discovered. St. Pelagia’s feast day is October 8th.

Note: This story might be pious fiction, which gave rise to a whole set of similar stories under different names.

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