Saint Pelagia was an actress, dancer, and harlot who lived in Antioch of Palestine in the 4th or 5th century.
One day, while Saint Nonnus the Bishop of Edessa was preaching, Pelagia passed by and Nonnus stared at her beauty, while the rest turned their eyes away. Nonnus then said she put the rest of them to shame, because she took more care of her body than they took of their souls.
The following Sunday, while Nonnus was preaching a sermon about Hell and the Dread Judgment, Pelagia again came to the church and was struck with shame by the sermon. She repented with tears, and privately begged Nonnus for baptism. He took her confession and baptized her.
The Devil came to her at night and tried to lure her back into her former life, but Pelagia drove him away three times with the sign of the Cross. She then resolved to devote the rest of her life to repentance, and she left all her wealth with Nonnus to be distributed to the poor. She made a cell for herself on the Mount of Olives and dressing herself as a monk, she underwent extreme asceticism.
Only three or four years later, emaciated and unrecognizable from her former self, Pelagia died. Other ascetics who knew her buried her in her cell, and as they prepared her body, they were shocked to discover she was a woman. They tried to keep this a secret, but her fame spread and her grace-filled relics drew pilgrims from throughout the region.
Saint Pelagia is commemorated on October 8.
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