The Life of St. Verena
Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
St. Verena was born to a noble Christian family in a city called Thebes, located in modern day Luxor, Egypt. From a young age she was educated by Bishop Sherimon, the bishop of Beni Suef. When Bishop Sherimon departed, St. Verena accompanied the Theban legion which consisted of 6,000 young men from the city of the Thebes sent to fight for Diocletion’s army. St. Verena’s cousin, St. Maurice, was part of this legion. Relatives of the soldiers were encourage to accompany them in order to provide healing services and feed the soldiers.
The Ascetic Life
After fighting for victory for the king, he ordered the Theban legion to worship idols. They refused and the king ordered the martyrdom of all of the 6,000 men in the legion. Mourning her cousin, St. Verena fled to Solothurn, Switzerland and lived an ascetic life; she continually fasted, prayed and worked miracles among the locals. St. Verena taught them personal hygiene and about medicinal herbs, served the poor, and acted as nurse to the sick. Many people shunned lepors but she attended to their wounds and gave them ointment without concern for infection. St. Verena was especially impactful amongst young girls, helping them spiritually and physically and converting many.
Imprisonment & Departure
Eventually the local ruler became angry at her influence and ordered her to be arrested. While in jail she was visited by an appearance of St. Maurice, who comforted and strengthened her. Tradition states that the ruler fell ill with a high fever, which his doctors and servants could not break. He ordered for St. Verena to be brought to him and once she prayed to God on his behalf, he was healed and ordered her release.
St. Verena departed on the 4th day of the Coptic month of Thout (September 14). At the time of her departure she saw the Holy Virgin St. Mary, who came to console and strengthen her.
In October 2004, a delegation from the Diocese of Los Angeles in the United States including Metropolitan Serapion, Fr. Joseph Boules, and Fr. Gregory Bishay, traveled to Switzerland to bring a part of St. Verena’s relics to our church (St. Mary and St. Verena in Yorba Linda) and her church in Orange, St. Verena and the Three Holy Youth. Both churches have a shrine dedicated to her relic.
St. Mary and St. Verena Coptic Orthodox Church in Yorba Linda, CA hosts a festival every year in commemoration of St. Verena on the weekend closest to her feast day, the 4th day of the Coptic month of Thout.