Saint Sigolena of Arles

ca 736 - 769

Source: Vita Sanctae Sigolenae [= The Life of Saint Sigolena] by an unknown author in the 8th century,
published in: Société de Bollandistes 1643-1925, Acta Sanctorum, vol. V, 7th of July, pp. 628 - 637.

A free translation of Chapter 2 from the Latin by John Wijngaards

"Not long after this Sigolena's husband died. The servants mourned their master and so did his relatives. The whole house was in mourning but our most blessed saint buried him with a splendid funeral service. In total our Saint had been subject to her husband for about 10 years.

When her parents try to console her about his death and her grief, she told them: "In no way will I be consoled unless you permit me to treat all secular concerns with contempt". Her parents were not interested in the cause of religion but tried to talk her into another marriage so that they could afterwards glory about it in their own world. However, a strong conflict now arose between the holy proposal of God's servant and the secular interest of the parents. She chose rather to lead a monastic life then to live in her own home with danger to her chastity.

When her parents saw that they had been defeated by her and that they could not resist the decision of her will they, willingly or unwillingly, gave in to her holy desire which they could not overcome. Our Saint exulted with great joy about the permission of her parents. And so, having gained freedom in every respect [= from her husband and her parents], she gave thanks to the Lord.

Eo sub tempore directam legationem ad Pontificem praedictae urbis sui miserunt parentes, ut ipsam mutata veste Domino consecraret. Qui eorum agnita voluntate, manu superposita consecravit diaconam. At vero cum Dei Famula largita sibi a pontifice benedictione, domum remeasset, coepit pelegrinationem desiderare, memor illius dominici imperii ad Abraham: Exi de terra tua, & de cognatione tue, & de domo patris tui & vade in terram quam monstravero tibi.

At that time her parents sent a delegation to the bishop of the town mentioned [= Arles] asking that he might consecrate her to the Lord after she would have changed her dress [to that of a widow].

He acceded to their decision, imposed hands on her and consecrated her a deacon.

But when the Servant of God had received her ordination [lit. blessing] from the bishop and had returned home, she began to desire a pilgrimage mindful of the command of the Lord to Abraham: 'Leave your country and your relatives and the home of your father and go to the land that I will show you.'


If we can trust the details of this account, Sigolena received the ordination to the diaconate, probably through a simple but valid ordination rite.

However, this kind of diaconate was not like the vibrant diaconate for the ministry of women which we find in the East. For the context makes it clear that Sigolena was intent on a monastic life rather than parish service.

On the left: ancient icon showing Sigolena's parents introducing her to the bishop.

Soon our deeply devout person [= Sigolena] fell with tears at the feet of her [spiritual] father, called Chramficus, a man dedicated to God's worship, and inflamed with holy desire addressed these words to him: 'For the sake of the kingdom of God and through the inspiration of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gives everything that is good, I desire to treat with contempt the glory of this world which passes as the grass in the field and the false riches of the world with contempt. I will do this, according to the statement of the holy gospel. I will renounce the world and carry the yoke of Christ, which is light for those who carry it. I want to be liberated from the burdens of this world. For with the help of of the agreement of my parents and your permission I have decided that I want to join the sacred flock [of Christ] with the sacred virgins and belong to God. I want to liberate myself from all secular worries so that I can serve the commands of the Lord more fully to the extent I will be able to.'

When her [spiritual] father heard this he was amazed at this desire which had been ignited by God's fire and the ardour of her heart, and he sympathised with her . . . ", etc. etc.



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