July 27 – Pantaleimon

Pantaleimon (ca. 275–303) was born Pantaleon (“Lion’s pants”) in Nicomedia to a rich pagan and a Christian. He fell away from his mother’s faith when she went to meet Christ and didn’t come back. He studied medicine, and either became or was slated to become court physician to Emperor Maximian (or Galerius). Meanwhile, across town, (St.) Hermolaus, bishop of Nicomedia, was holed up with numerous other Christians, hiding from the persecution that had taken 20,000 Christians in a single day. Pantaleon visited them occasionally (perhaps as part of his residency), and Hermolaus taught him about Jesus Christ.

One day Pantaleon came across a boy and a snake. The former was dead; the latter loitering. Pantaleon prayed to Jesus to heal the boy and kill the snake, promising to receive baptism if it worked. It did and he was, taking the name “Pantaleimon” (“Lemon pants”) (kidding; “All-merciful”). His father also converted when he saw Pantaleimon heal a blind man. When Dad died, Pantaleimon freed his slaves, gave away his inheritance, and settled into a life of unmercenary* doctory. He became famous, widely-sought, and the target of the ire of the pagan doctors, who told the emperor he was healing Christian prisoners (which was a dirty rotten truth). Max urged him to refute these charges by making an offering to the gods. “Tell you what,” said Pantaleimon. “Bring out a really sick guy, and let’s see who can heal him, me, or your tattle-tale pagan doctors.” A sick guy was procured (there seemed to be no shortage of them), and when the pagan doctors failed to heal him and Pantaleimon succeeded, the previously-sick guy was executed (“Not the sort of healing I was hoping for,” he may have said). Pantaleimon was put on the docket for torture.

Our Lord appeared to Pantaleimon and strengthened him (the image of the great saint leaning back against the ropes in his corner while our Lord gave encouragement came unbidden into my mind, for which I apologize). When the hour came, the torturers exhausted their playbook, which was pretty much the same as every pagan torture playbook (they were probably all published by the same company), culminating in drowning lessons (complete with rock). Through it all Pantaleimon remained unharmed, and as he swam ashore he denounced the emperor for all to hear.

They then tossed Pantaleimon into a circus with wild beasts, which came and licked his feet. (Perhaps they were still salty from his swim. (The feet, not the beasts.)) The spectators began chanting, “Great is the God of the Christians!”—not the denouement Max particularly wanted. He had the chanters stabbed, and Pantaleimon carted off and tied to a tree (for decapitation). At the moment of truth, however, the swordsman’s wax melted like sword (or vice versa). This was good, as the saint was halfway through a prayer and wanted to finish it before dying. Then a Voice came from heaven summoning Pantaleimon thither, and the soldiers fell to their knees, begging for forgiveness. They were about to untie him, but he begged them to get it over with so he could go home. Weeping, they said goodbye and beheaded him. Instantly the tree became laden with fruit (olives, as it happens). Many witnesses were converted on the spot.

The saint’s relics were distributed wide and far. Some of his dried blood is at Ravello (Italy), and liquefies on his feast day. His “crown” (skull) resides at a monastery on Athos* which (by coincidence or design) bears his name. As you can imagine, he is the patron saint of said monastery, and also of (of all things) lottery winners.