Being of European origin on my mother's side (Austrian) as a child my Namenstag (Name Day) was celebrated with happiness and much vigour! I began to wonder if it was more important than my birthday which falls between Christmas and New Year. As a child my Christmas and birthday presents seemed to meld into one! Tomorrow, the 4 December is in Austrian, Mein Namenstag - in other words, my Name Day.
There is a great deal of speculation attached to St Barbara but whatever there is, the lady was removed from the Liturgical Calendar of the Roman Rite in 1969. In other words, made redundant! She was removed by Pope Paul VI apparently because there was no reference to her in early Christian writings. Strange then that one can actually find quite a great deal written about her. St Barbara seems to be quite a popular saint even now in modern times. She is known as the Patron Saint of artillerymen, military engineers, miners and others who work with explosives because of her legendary association with lightening and mathematicians. Here is where our association could well end as my interaction with mathematics was a disaster throughout my school career. Never mind that a great deal of my working life has had to do with figures!! It is also said that she is the Patron Saints of Masons which may have more to do with her being banished to the back benches than the supposed little reference to her works in early Christian writings!!
Barbara was the daughter of a rich pagan, Dioscorus who kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. (What, no Rapunzel!?) Unknown to her father she became a Christian after which she rejected the man her father had chosen to be her husband. Legend has it that her father before leaving on a long journey had a bath house built for her. (The first bathroom???) During his absence, Barbara had three windows installed as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. I am not sure why this is relevant but historians and theologians obviously thought it significant as originally only two were proposed.
When Barbara's father returned from wherever he had been, she revealed to him that she was now a Christian which made him pull out his sword - either to frighten or kill her. Who knows? She prayed and miraculously the walls of the tower opened and she was apparently transported to a mountain gorge where two shepherds were minding their flocks. Dioscorus, following his daughter was rebuffed by the first shepherd but the second betrayed her after which he was turned to stone and his flock, to locusts. Taken by her father to the Prefect of the Province, Martinianius Barbara was cruelly tortured. (Nice father!) During the nights, the dark prison was bathed in lights and miracles occurred. Every morning it was seen that her wounds from the torturing had healed. Torches that were lighted to burn her immediately went out when they were put near her so finally she was condemned to death by beheading. Her father carried out the evil deed. On his way home after the beheading, the man was struck by lightening and in flames, burned to death. Barbara was buried by a Christian named Valentinus and her tomb became the site of many miracles.
In the 12th century Barbara's relics were taken from Constantinople to St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev where they were kept until sometime in the 1930s. They were then transferred to St Vladinimir's Cathedral, also in Kiev.
Orthodox Christians including Anglicans have never stopped venerating St Barbara and I think it's sad that she was removed from the 'official list'!! Artillery regiments throughout the world celebrate their Patron Saint on the 4 December. The US Artillery Associations both army and air defence maintain the Order of St Barbara and in the mining town of Kalgoorlie in Australia, she is venerated in the annual St Barbara'd Day Parade. (They know a good thing when they see it!). "Mein Namenstag" is also celebrated throughout Latin America.
I'm not sure I look a great deal like her and I'm not sure that I'd have had her courage!
Patron Saint of Miners