Born Penelope in Magedon of Persia during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337 AD) of the governor Licinius and his wife Licinia. One day, while sitting in the tower her father had built for her safekeeping, the saint saw three birds enter her room and place articles on her table. The first was a dove with an olive branch, the second an eagle with a garland of flowers, and the third a crow with a snake. Her tutor Apellian interpreted these events, saying that these were various symbols of her calling and preparation to proclaim the Christian faith to her people and of her trials and sufferings as well. Penelope was baptized and received the name Irene at that time.
Her father, discovering Irene's new faith, decided to punish her with death by having her trampled under the hooves of his horses. The saint, however, remained unhurt, whereas her father himself fell and was mortally wounded. Through the prayer of Saint Irene, though, her father was resurrected and came to believe in Christ, along with his wife. Her resigned his governorship and took to the tower in order to spend the remainder of his days in acts of repentance.
The new governor, Sedekias, resolved to have Irene sacrifice to his idols. After her repeated refusals, he cast her into a pit filled with poisonous snakes and lizards. Once again, though, she suffered no harm. Subsequent attempts to harm her by governors Sedekias, Sabor, and Noumerianos failed time and again, and all the while Irene's peaceful faith in the face of torture won many converts to Christianity among her people.
Irene of Thessalonica - 5 May - Martyr
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst strengthen thy blessed martyr Irene of Thessalonica with the virtue of constancy in faith and truth: Grant us in like manner for love of thee to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - 2 Esdras 2:42-48.
I ESDRAS saw upon the mount Sion a great people, whom I could not number, and they all praised the Lord with songs. And in the midst of them there was a young man of a high stature, taller than all the rest, and upon every one of their heads he set crowns, and was more exalted; which I marvelled at greatly. So I asked the angel, and said, Sir, what are these? He answered and said unto me, These be they that have put off the mortal clothing, and put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God: now are they crowned, and receive palms. Then said I unto the angel. What young person is it that crowneth them, and giveth them palms in their hands? So he answered and said unto me, It is the Son of God, whom they have confessed in the world. Then began I greatly to commend them that stood so stiffly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said unto me, Go thy way, and tell my people what manner of things, and how great wonders of the Lord thy God, thou hast seen.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 10:16-22.
BEHOLD, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall he brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Reference and Resources: