Saint Bonosa was a child martyr of the third century, whose relics were found in the catacombs of Saint Praetextatus, in Rome, on March 27, 1848. It is calculated that she was four years of age when she died for her Faith. Her holy relics were sent to France by Pope Pius IX in 1850, and entrusted to the Trappist monks of the ancient abbey of Fontgombault. In 1904, when the French government had again unleashed its persecution of the Catholic Church and in particular of contemplative religious communities, the monks of Fontgombault exiled themselves to the United States, bringing the relics of the virgin martyr with them. (Fontbomgault would be re-established in 1948 as a Benedictine monastery of the Congregation of Solesmes.)
In the United States, trace of the relics of St. Bonosa was lost until, at the inquiry of the Benedictine monks of Fontgombault, they were rediscovered in 2005 among the reliquaries of a monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho. The relics were then returned to the monks of Fontgombault. However, only part of these very ancient bones were sent back to France because of their fragility and the fact that such a large reliquary with human remains would not pass through modern security. In 1999, Fontgombault had made a foundation in Oklahoma, and it was to this monastery in the United States, Our Lady of Clear Creek, that the greater part of the relics of the Roman child martyr were solemnly translated on August 31, 2006. On that same day, as St. Bonosa’s reliquary was being carried in procession, a death-row inmate, miles away, made his profession of the Catholic faith and received the sacrament of confession only hours before his execution. These were not unrelated events. The monks had long been praying for him, asking for the intercession of St. Bonosa.
A Child Martyr?!
One may wonder how a child of four, St. Bonosa, could possibly have been a martyr, that is, could possibly have made the conscious decision to prefer fidelity to God over her own existence on earth. The particulars would be impossible to ascertain, but we can be sure that at the most basic level it was through a great love of God that simply would not allow her to do anything that she deemed would displease or betray Him in any way. We should not be surprised at a child martyr when it was children who, at the dawn of Christianity, were the very first to shed their blood for their Lord: the little Holy Innocents, that is, the male babies and toddlers of Bethlehem.
Throughout the history of Christianity there have been children who reached the heights of sanctity through their love of God, imbued with a clear understanding—whether consciously educated or by intuitive conviction—of the basic tenets of the Catholic Faith: St. Tarcisius (3rd century), the twelve-year old acolyte who was killed defending the Holy Eucharist from Roman soldiers; St. Imelda (1322-1333) who died enraptured in love of God upon her first, and what became her last, Holy Communion; St. Philomena (martyred at age 13), St. Dominic Savio (1842–1857), St. Maria Goretti (1890–1902) . . . the list is very, very long. The children of Fatima, Lúcia (1907–2005), Francisco (1908–1919) and Jacinta (1910–1920), are astounding examples, in very young children, of clear comprehension of the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith and total abandonment to God’s will out of love for Jesus Christ Our Lord, for the Blessed Virgin Mary, our heavenly Queen and Mother, and out of compassion for poor sinners and those who have no Faith. Even in their lifetime they were powerful intercessors before God.
So may the little children pray, and may they not be deterred from their road to sanctity. “Let the little children come to me,” says the Lord. [Mt. 19:14]
St. Bonosa, pray for us
May blessed Bonosa, Thy virgin and martyr, we beseech Thee, O Lord, implore for
us Thy forgiveness; for she was ever pleasing unto Thee, both by the merits of her chastity
and by her confession of Thy power. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
Who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.