June 15th is the feast day of Saint Vitus, one of the fourteen holy helpers and the patron saint of epileptics and those afflicted with neurological disorders. He was an Italian saint who lived around 300 A.D., although his story is told only in legends today and few historical facts are known about him.
Who was Saint Vitus?
St. Vitus was the son of a senator in Italy. He became a Christian when he was twelve years old, thanks to the influence of his tutor Modestus. Vitus’ prayers and example led to the conversion and healing of many in his town. However, when Vitus’ father found out that his son was a Christian, he was very angry. He tried to threaten and force his son to renounce his faith, but Vitus stood firm.
Finally, since the senator involved the local governor in trying to get Vitus to renounce Jesus. The governor ordered Vitus to be beaten, but when the soldiers tried to raise their hands to whip Vitus, their arms were paralyzed. This was attributed to sorcery. Vitus made the sign of the cross over the soldiers’ arms and prayed for their healing, and it was granted. However, the governor refused to acknowledge the miracle and finally sent Vitus home to his father.
Along with Modestus and his wife Crescentia (who was Vitus’ servant), Vitus fled from his home and ended up in Rome. There, thanks to his status as the son of a senator, he met the son of the Emperor Diocletian and helped free the boy from an evil spirit. Some think the emperor’s son actually had epilepsy and Vitus’ intercession healed him from this disease.
However, when Vitus refused to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods, the miracle was attributed to sorcery. He, Modestus and Crescentia were sent to be tortured. Legend states they were boiled in a cauldron of liquid tar and lead, then thrown to wild lions, then stretched on racks. Praying for deliverance in God’s name, they emerged from each torture unscathed. Vitus even cured one of his tormenters of paralysis of his hands.
One legend states that they were eventually martyred by the Emperor Diocletian. Another legend states that a storm struck Rome and destroyed numerous temples. Vitus and his friends were freed and were guided by an angel back to their hometown.
Ask for St. Vitus’ Intercession…
Iconography of Saint Vitus usually shows him inside or holding a boiling cauldron, the symbol of his tortures or martyrdom. After his death, his relics were transported to Paris and to Prague, and devotion to him grew greatly in Germany. His intercession was sough for the cure of many illnesses, including hydrophobia and epilepsy.
The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry notes that, “The healing power of the saint’s relics was thought to be especially efficacious for the sick with ‘unsteady step, trembling limbs, limping knees, bent fingers and hands, paralysed hands, lameness, crookedness, and withering body’.” The symptoms of these disorders sometimes resembled a dance, so “St. Vitus’ dance” became a popular name for movement disorders.
St. Vitus is also the patron saint against animal attacks, lightning strikes, Sydenham’s chorea (Saint Vitus’ Dance) and oversleeping; of several cities including Prague and Rijeka; and of dancers, actors, comedians, and boilermakers.
Along with Saints Modestus and Crescentia, his feast day is celebrated on June 15th, the day of his death.
Saint Vitus, pray for us.