Today is the feast of St. Blandina, patroness of the falsely accused.
Blandina was a slave, martyred alongside several other Christians in 177 AD. Her companions were concerned that she was so physically weak that, under torture, she would break. She was asked to confess that Christians committed incest and cannibalism, but no matter how severely she was tortured, she would only ever reply “I am a Christian, and nothing wicked happens among us.”
For her final tortures, she was first tied to a stake while wild beasts were set on her. They would not touch her. She was then brought to the arena to see the tortures of her companions. She still refused to confess to the false charges. She was then scourged, burned on a grill, tossed in a net and thrown to a wild steer. She survived all of these tortures and was, in the end, killed by having her throat slit.
We need this saint’s intercession today in particular. False accusations for some crimes follow the accused around forever, even in the complete absence of evidence. I recall years ago watching a documentary of a teacher who was accused of propositioning a teenage female student. (Unfortunately I don’t recall names). There was no evidence aside from the accusation, and the student (presumably after she saw the damage she had done) even admitted that she had made the whole thing up. The man still was fired from his job and was never able to find teaching work again. For certain crimes, to be accused is to be guilty.
In the West we’ve been making cultural moves that guarantee that falsely accused people will face further injustice. For certain crimes we have, for political reasons, largely rejected the idea of innocent until proven guilty, as we have seen in the #metoo movement and in certain police shootings. That some innocent will inevitably have their lives destroyed as a resultof these politics does not appear to weigh heavily on the public conscience.
The falsely accused innocent are not collateral damage. They are souls. Today, let’s make a point of remembering that.
St. Blandina, pray for us.