Irene, Great-Martyr of Thessalonica, was born Princess Penelope to pagan parents. Afraid his daughter would be influenced by Christianity (as no doubt the stories of other high-born ladies who dedicated themselves to Jesus had reached him), he locked her up in a tower with thirteen other girls. Because God finds a way, He sent the future saint a tutor, Apellian, who along with his authorized subjects, taught her the way of Christ.
When she reached marriageable age, a miracle occurred. A series of birds came into her tower, each fortelling her future, a dove with an olive branch proclaiming God’s grace, an eagle with a crown of flowers told of her great success as a minister of Christ, and a raven with a snake foretold her suffering. Further, Apellian told her that Christ wanted her to be his bride. Penelope agreed, dedicated her virginity to the Lord, was baptized and renamed Irene.
When Irene refused every suitor and her father found out all his machinations had been in vain, he was furious and ordered her to be trampled by wild horses. Instead of hurting her, however, the horses charged her father and killed him. Irene raised her father from the dead, and he and three thousand others turned to Christ.
Irene was persecuted by others in power and subjected to torture. No matter what they did, she would not bend, and thousands were converted. Eventually, she came to the city of Ephesus, where God revealed she would die. She found a new tomb and directed her friends to block the door, entering it alive to await her death. When her friends came four days later, her body was not there.
May we, like Irene, be strong in the face of all persecution!