Commemorated on May 16, June 15
The Holy Martyrs
Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia the Nursemaid, suffered for Christ during
the reign of emperor Diocletian (284-305). The holy Martyr Vitus was son of an
illustrious Sicilian dignitary, the pagan Gelas. While still a young lad, Saint
Vitus was enflamed with an ardent love for the Lord Jesus Christ and he prayed
incessantly to Him. The Lord gave him the grace of wonderworking. He healed the
sick and converted many pagans to Christ. Learning about this, the governor
Valerian summoned Gelas and advised him to turn his son away from faith in
Christ; and how that were the emperor at some time to issue an edict for the
persecution of Christians, not only the lad, but all the household of Gelas
would suffer. But Gelas was not able to persuade Saint Vitus and he began to
beat the lad. The governor Valerian learned that Saint Vitus had refused to
offer sacrifice to the gods, and summoned him to trial before him. The holy lad
firmly confessed his faith before the court and unconditionally refused to
offer sacrifice to idols. They beat him again. When the governor, giving the
signal for increasing the torture, lifted his hand, it immediately withered.
The governor received healing through the prayer of the saint and, dissolving
the trial, he gave back the holy lad to Gelas, having commanded that he not
turn him away from faith in Christ.
In order to corrupt
his son in fleshly sin, Gelas surrounded him in luxury, and brought pretty
girls to him. They filled him with tasty food, arranged banquets and
entertainment, but the expected results were not forthcoming. Saint Vitus did
not cease to pray, and he asked God's help in temptations. Angels appeared to
him and prayed with him. When Gelas went took his son and glanced at the
Angels, he immediately went blind. Gelas gave a vow to recant from idols, and
Saint Vitus healed him. But, stubborn of heart, Gelas did not keep his vow.
Paternal love for his son turned to hatred for him, and he decided to kill him.
In order to save the boy, his tutor Saint Modestus and his nurse Saint
Crescentia – who were Christians, secretly took him from his parental home. At
the river they saw a boat. An Angel went into the boat together with them and
they reached the Italian district of Lucanium, where the saints lived quietly
– hidden away from torturers. The holy lad never ceased to heal the sick and
he converted pagans to Christianity. Here also news about him spread about.
Saints Vitus and
Modestus went to present themselves before Diocletian. Taken with the fine
appearance of the lad, he at first urged him to offer sacrifice to idols. The
holy lad denounced senseless idol-worship and he healed a demoniac son of
Diocletian. The emperor offered Saint Vitus great honours, fame and riches –
on the condition that he recant from the Christian faith. The lad refused and
with his former courage he confessed himself a Christian. They locked him up in
prison together with Saint Modestus. When Jesus Christ appeared to the
prisoners – strengthening them in their deed and giving His help, the fetters
fell from their hands. Ascribing the miracle to magic, Diocletian gave command
to throw Saint Vitus into a cauldron of boiling oil. The saint stood in it, as
though in cool water, and remained unharmed. Then a fierce lion was set loose
at him. The lad signed himself with the sign of the cross, and the beast
peacefully lied down at his feet and began to lick his foot. They hung the holy
martyrs on pillars and began to rip at them with iron claws. Saint Crescentia
came out of the crowd of spectators, confessed herself a Christian and
reproached the emperor for his cruelty. He sentenced her also to torture. Saint
Vitus called out to God: "O God, save us by Thy power and deliver
us". An earthquake started. Many pagans perished under the collapsed
buildings, and Diocletian in fear fled to his chambers. An Angel released the
martyrs from the pillars and took them to Lucanium. The holy Martyr Vitus
prayed to God, that He would accept their souls in peace and not deprive His
benefaction from all, who would keep their memory. From Heaven came a Voice:
"Thy prayer is heard". The saints with joy gave up their souls to
God. The sufferings of the holy Martyrs Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia occurred
in about the year 303. The memory of these saints is celebrated also on 16 May.
The relics of Saint Vitus were transferred to Prague (Praha). Holy Nobleborn
prince Vyacheslav of the Czechs (Comm. 28 September) constructed a temple in
honour of the holy Martyr Vitus, in which he was afterwards buried.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.