6 MARCH 2011. Today, the ninth Sunday in ordinary time, I spent some time reading from a work on the life of Saint Catherine of Siena. In that reading I came across mention of Saint Euphrosyne. The reading provided that Saint Catherine was called little Euphrosyne as a a child, a Greek name meaning joy or satisfaction. And, Saint Catherine, at one point in her youth, had set out from Siena to live in emulation of Saint Euphrosyne.
Legend tells us that Saint Euphrosyne was born in Alexandria, the only daughter of a rich man named Paphnutius, who desired to marry his daughter to a wealthy young man. Euphrosyne, however, had consecrated her life to God. Seeing no other way to thwart her father's intentions to marry her away, and keep her consecration to the Lord, Euphrosyne clothed herself as a man, taking the name of Smaragdus, and was admitted to the monastery near Alexandria. For 38 years Euphrosyne lived as a monk in the monastery.
Not long after entering the monastery, Euphrosyne--living as Smaragdus-- gained the attention of the abbot because of her rapid strides in living a perfect ascetic life. Afterwards, when Paphnutius approached the abbot for consolation over the loss of his daughter, the abbot chose Smaragdus to care for his spiritual needs. Although the father failed to recognize his daughter, he received from her helpful advice and comforting exhortation. However, not until near her moment of death did Smaragdus reveal herself to him as his lost daughter Euphrosyne.
Encouraged by the example of his daughter in bearing her life for Christ, Paphnutius himself entered the monastery after the death of Euphrosyne in about A.D. 470.
The feast day of Saint Euphrosyne is celebrated by the Latin Rite on 16 January (but, by the Carmelites on 11 February) and celebrated in the east on 25 September.
Modern scholarship indicates that the story of Saint Euphrosyne may be pious fiction that has been mistaken for history--calling into question the historical existence of Saint Euphrosyne and her father Paphnutius.