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12.17: A Coffin Upon the Sea

Today is the feast day of St. Olympias of Constantinople, a gal who started off as a socialite of sorts and then later became kind of a bad ass. Born somewhere around 365, she was named after an aunt who was once engaged to a Roman emperor (but then married another king instead). Her family was quite wealthy, and had strong ties to nobility going way back. Olympias herself was married to a nobleman, but after he died, she decided to go solo. She turned down several offers of marriage;  Emperor Theodosius himself even suggested a husband for her, and was so irked when she refused that fellow as that he placed all her money in a trust account until she turned 30. Once she got all her money back, she became a deaconess in the early church and went on a spending spree for the poor. She built a hospital and an orphanage, sheltered refugee monks on the run from persecution, and created a community of other church ladies devoted to helping the poor.

She became pals with a guy who was later sainted himself, John Chrysostom, who told her she was spending too much money, and rein it in a little, huh? When he became Patriarch of  (bishop, sort of), he mentored her. She stuck by him when he fell in disfavor with a new emperor, and was booted from Constantinople for her trouble. She died fairly young, in 408.

Here’s my favorite part: one Catholic blog relates that after her death, she appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Nicomedia (where she lived in exile and eventually died) and “commanded that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea. ‘Wherever the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried,’ said the saint. The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokthoi near Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of Saint Olympias and placed them in the church of the Saint Thomas.” Just set my coffin afloat on the sea, she said: baller move. Good for you, Olympias! (Although a little unfortunate for the person on the beach who stumbles upon a coffin while relaxing seaside.)

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