February 19 — Dositheus of Gaza; Conrad of Piacenza

Dositheus of Gaza (d. ca. 530) (aka Dosithy) was something of a pampered brat, went to Jerusalem on a whim, and was struck (figuratively) by an icon of the Last Judgment. “What must I do to avoid these torments?” he asked a nearby woman, who told him to fast, become a vegetarian, and pray continually. He looked again, and he was alone. “Whoa,” he said. “Time to join a monastery.”

So he did. He was made a disciple of Dorotheus, who saw (using the sixth-century equivalent of Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram) that he needed to be taken down a peg, and set out to teach him humility through obedience. One day, for instance, the monastery was given a fancy knife, and Dosithy said, “Look, master, this would be great for my work!” The elder man took it from him and said, “It is a good knife. I do not want you to ever touch it again.” And he didn’t, even to pass it to another monk. Dorotheus did a lot of this sort of thing, but we are assured he was not a control freak, just a good teacher of humility.

Dosithy had something of a quick temper and a foul mouth (unlike anybody whom anybody who knows me knows[1]) but also a soft heart. When he sniped at one of the patients in the infirmary, Dorotheus later found him crying about it and told him, “Don’t you know when you mistreat one of the brothers, you are mistreating Christ?” Very comforting, I’m sure. But after Dosithy wept a bit more, he was told, “Get up now, God forgives you,” whereupon he was filled with joy.

After he had been at the monastery about five years, he contracted tuberculosis, and began coughing blood. Dorotheus was beside himself with anguish. Eventually it got so bad Dosithy asked the monastery’s Great Old Man ((St.) Barsanuphius) for permission to die, but he was told to wait, so he did. Not much later he asked again, and the G.O.M. consented, adding, “When you appear before the Holy Trinity, pray for us.” The other monks were incensed. “He doesn’t keep the fasts, he never stays awake through the midnight office (yada yada), and he’s going to pray for us before God?” (They clearly had been working on some virtue other than humility.) Not much later, though, a visitor had a vision of all the monastery’s saints in heaven, and among them was one who looked like a mere boy. When he awoke, he asked the abbot who that could be. “That would be Dositheus,” he was told, and the monks went away, um, enlightened.

Conrad of Piacenza (ca. 1290–1351) was born noble and (some time later) married to Euphrosyne, “a woman admirable in every respect” (golly). Conrad was out hunting with his buddies one day when their quarry went into some heavy bushes. He had them set fire to the brush, but the flames spread and destroyed some crops and maybe even a village or two (accounts vary). Conrad went into hiding, and a peasant was tortured into confessing the deed (showing just how useful torture is for ascertaining the truth) (oops I’m editorializing again). As the peasant was being led to the gallows, Conrad was smitten with remorse and confessed the deed (“Tear up the boards!”)[2]. He was made to pay damages, and it ruined him. He and Euphrosyne (is she admirable or what?) gave what little they had left to the poor, and went off to join separate monasteries. Sadly he was so holy that he started attracting a fan club (the miraculous healings probably didn’t hurt either), so he moved to Sicily, where he continued his healing work in the hospital when he wasn’t out hermiting in the woods. (Euphrosyne drops out of the picture, poor girl.) We’re not told what all else he healed, but his prayers are invoked against hernia.

[1] I don’t blame you if you don’t try to puzzle this out, but it does in fact work.
[2] Cheap reference, I know.