St. Marina

[July 17, 2015]

July 17 is the feast of the valiant St. Marina, who was martyred in the 3rd century. Over the years she has kept intersecting with my life—those odd synchronicities that make you wonder if there’s something going on that you don’t know what to do with.

—In 1981 my husband and I (and kids) moved to Woodbridge, VA, where he had been called as the rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. Funny thing about that name. The woman who donated the money to found the church, half a century ago, asked that it be named for the patron saint of her school, St. Margaret. But by mistake the committee dedicated it to St. Margaret of Antioch, a.k.a. St Marina, and not St. Margaret of Scotland, whom the school had been named for.

—Soon after we moved there I started teaching natural childbirth classes. I learned that St Margaret / St. Marina is a patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth. Part of her story is that she was swallowed by a dragon, but cut it open and escaped. I guess that was what inspired the childbirth association. During those years I taught about 450 pregnant ladies, and was present at a number of home births and hospital births.

—When we were chrismated, our daughter Megan took St. Marina as her patron. The name means “the sea” in Latin, so it is actually the equivalent of St. Pelagia in Greek, not St. Margaret (“pearl”).

—And after we were chrismated, we came to find that in Orthodoxy St. Marina is a major saint, more well-known than St. Margaret is in the West. She has a pretty heroic profile, along with St. Markella, St. Photini, St. Catherine, etc.

Just wanted to give a shout-out to St. Marina today. And I thought of something about the name Margaret. Since it means “pearl” in Greek, if you read the passage in the Gospel where Jesus speaks of a “merchant in search of fine pearls,” the Greek could also be translated, “there was a businessman looking for good Margaritas.”

Here’s an icon of St. Marina from Bulgaria, where she is especially loved. It is the only icon of her that shows scenes from her life. Wish I had a higher-resolution image.


About Frederica Mathewes-Green

Frederica Mathewes-Green is a wide-ranging author who has published 10 books and 800 essays, in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, and the Wall Street Journal. She has been a regular commentator for National Public Radio (NPR), a columnist for the Religion News Service,, and Christianity Today, and a podcaster for Ancient Faith Radio. (She was also a consultant for Veggie Tales.) She has published 10 books, and has appeared as a speaker over 600 times, at places like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Cornell, Calvin, Baylor, and Westmont, and received a Doctor of Letters (honorary) from King University. She has been interviewed over 700 times, on venues like PrimeTime Live, the 700 Club, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Mathewes-Green, in Johnson City, TN. Their three children are grown and married, and they have fourteen grandchildren.


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