Today and tomorrow the church commemorates two more of the band of ‘transvestite saints’ – women who disguised themseves as men to live out their lives in male monasteries. Wednesday 11th February is the feast of St Euphrosyne ( later known as Saint Smaragdus), who died in 470. Tomorrow, Thursday 12th February, is the turn of St Mary (later, Marinos) of Alexandria.
From the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:
” Euphrosyne was the only daughter of Paphnutius, a rich man of Alexandria, who desired to marry her to a wealthy youth. But having consecrated her life to God and apparently seeing no other means of keeping this vow, she clothed herself as a man and under the name of Smaragdus gained admittance into a monastery of men near Alexandria, where she lived for thirty-eight years after. She soon attracted the attention of the abbot by the rapid strides which she made toward a perfect ascetic life, and when Paphnutius appealed to him for comfort in his sorrow, the abbot committed the latter to the care of the alleged young man Smaragdus. The father received from his own daughter, whom he failed to recognize, helpful advice and comforting exhortation. Not until she was dying did shereveal herself to him as his lost daughter Euphrosyne. After her death Paphnutius also entered the monastery. Her feast is celebrated in the Greek Church on 25 September, in the Roman Church on 16 January (by the Carmelites on 11 February).”
St Mary of Alexandria is said to have been brougth to the monastery originally by her father. She is sometimes known as a “Desert Father in Disguise”,
Unfortunately, it is also claimed by some that her story, like others of the transvestite saints, is a fiction.