The Martyrology reads: “At Alexandria the holy virgin Apollonia—under the Emperor Decius (249-251) her teeth were beaten out; then the executioners built and lit a funeral pyre, and threatened to burn her alive unless she would repeat their blasphemies. After some reflection she suddenly tore herself loose from her tormentors and threw herself into the flames. The fire of the Holy Spirit that glowed within her was more intense than the burning pyre. Her executioners were astounded to see a weak woman willingly embracing death with such determination before they were ready to carry out their threats.”
The saint was already well on in years. An account of St. Apollonia’s martyrdom was written by Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria (died 265), a contemporary. She is honored as the patroness against toothache.
Apollonia, it might seem, committed suicide. Her act was used by the ancients as proof that it is permitted to escape dishonor or persecution through voluntary death. But the most authoritative moralists, including Saint Augustine, declare that even in such cases suicide is not permitted, and seek to justify Apollonia’s heroic act by assuming that she acted according to a special mandate from God; without such a divine injunction no one is allowed to follow her example. The saints are not to be imitated on every point.