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Catholic Culture News

Catholic Activity: Holy Martyrs Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia



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This life of the Sts. Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia was taken from Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church.


The Holy Martyrs Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia, suffered for Christ during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). Vitus was the 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 of this, the governor Valerian summoned Gelas and advised him to turn his son away from faith in Christ. If the emperor were to issue an edict for the persecution of Christians, he suggested, then not only the lad, but all the household of Gelas would suffer. But Gelas was not able to persuade St. Vitus and he began to beat the lad.

The governor Valerian learned that St. Vitus had refused to offer sacrifice to the gods, and summoned him to trial before him. The holy youth firmly confessed his faith before the court and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. When the governor lifted his hand to give the signal for increasing the torture, it immediately withered. The governor received healing through the prayers of the saint. He stopped the trial and gave the boy back to Gelas, commanding him not to 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 to his son's room and saw twelve angels, he immediately went blind. Gelas vowed to abandon idolatry, and St. 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 St. Modestus and his governess St. 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 youth never ceased to heal the sick and he converted pagans to Christianity. Here also news about him spread.

Sts. Vitus and Modestus went to present themselves before Diocletian. Taken with the fine appearance of the boy, he at first urged him to offer sacrifice to idols. The saint 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 turn 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 St. 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 ordered that St. Vitus be thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil. The saint stood in it as if in cool water, and remained unharmed. Then a fierce lion was set loose at him. The lad made the Sign of the Cross, and the beast peacefully lay down and began to lick his feet. They tied the holy martyrs to pillars and began to scrape them with iron claws. St. 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. St. Vitus called out to God, "O God, save us by Thy power and deliver us." An earthquake struck, and many pagans perished under the collapsed buildings. Diocletian fled to his chambers in fear. An angel released the martyrs from the pillars and took them to Lucanium.

St. Vitus prayed that God would accept their souls in peace and not deprive those who kept their memory of His benefaction. A Voice came from Heaven: "Thy prayer is heard." The saints joyfully surrendered their souls to God. The sufferings of the holy martyrs Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia occurred in the year 303. The memory of these saints is celebrated also on May 16. The relics of Saint Vitus were transferred to Prague. The Holy Prince Vyacheslav (Wenceslaus) of the Czechs (September 28) constructed a temple in honor of St. Vitus, in which he was afterwards buried.