June 15 – Doulas of Egypt; Vitus

Doulas of Egypt (no date—let’s just say “Egyptian Monk period”), due to his humility, meekness, obedience, and so on, endured the jealous mockery of his fellow monks (and there’s no jealous mockery like jealous monky mockery) for twenty years. But worse was to come, otherwise his story would be boring and I’d have picked some other saint for today. Some holy vessels went missing on the one day in his entire life he was down with the crud and so not in church. Witnesses testified they had seen him take the goods, and when he saw he was doomed, he said only, “I am a sinner. Forgive me.”

Forgiveness, however, was off on pilgrimage somewhere. Doulas was stripped of his robes, dressed in street clothes, and sent to the secular authorities. They demanded he produce the silver, but he replied, “If I said I had it, I’d be lying, and that’s diabolical, so I shan’t.” He was sentenced to have his hands cut off. At the last minute the actual thief confessed his sin, which was handy[1] for Doulas. (We’re not told the fate of the limbs of the lackey who lifted the luggage.) Nevertheless he was banished from the monastery for twenty years, on account of, well, something. The perennially popular “blaming the victim,” perhaps.

After twenty years he returned to the monastery, and all the monks asked for his forgiveness. “Well,” he said, “I have suffered for my sins, which has done me good.” He forgave them, and prayed for God to forgive them. After he’d been home for three days, they found him locked in the cathedral, apparently dead, but everyone who had a key was off visiting. When they finally unlocked the church, they found only his robe and his sandals. “Thus,” says the source, his accusers “were shown to be unworthy of burying his holy body.” So there.

Vitus (d. 303) was born in Sicily to upstanding pagan parents, who took it poorly when, through the influence of his tutor Modestus and his governess Crescentia, he was baptized a Christian and, at the tender age of twelve, took up an ascetic life. He was attended by angels, which is more than I can say, and he was as radiant and handsome as an angel, which rather leaves me in the dust. When his father was blinded from seeing shining angels in Vitus’ room, he healed him by his prayers. In thanks, his father tried to kill him (fathers aren’t always logical), so V. fled (with Modestus and Crescentia) to Lucania, where he healed the sick and the insane.

They then went to Rome, where Vitus was brought before Diocletian, whose son he dispossessed of a demonic demon. When he (Vitus, not the demon) refused to worship the pagan gods, the miracle was attributed to sorcery, and the three Christians were subjected to a number of execution attempts, including a cauldron of molten lead (from which they escaped unscathed), lions (who didn’t find them appetizing), and finally hot oil (which worked). At the moment of their deaths, a supernatural derecho[2] destroyed a number of pagan temples in the neighborhood, driving temple insurance rates through the dome.

Many years later, Vitus was counted among the Fourteen Holy Helpers*, whose prayers were sought for any number of things. In particular, sixteenth century Germans for some reason (other than that they were sixteenth century Germans, which is come to think of it probably enough) thought that if they danced before his image, they would obtain a year’s good health. This dancing took on a somewhat jerky form, which resembled chorea, as a result of which Sydenham’s Chorea is sometimes referred to as St. Vitus’ Dance. Vitus is of course the patron saint of people suffering from this ailment, as well as epilepsy. He is also the patron saint of comedians, for (one hopes) some other reason.


[1] Heh.
[2] Or perhaps a haboob.