June 15, 2021: SS. VITUS, MODESTUS, AND CRESCENTIA
June 15, 2021: COMM. OF SS. VITUS, MODESTUS, AND CRESCENTIA, MARTYRS
You have purchased unto yourselves, Modestus and Crescentia, the everlasting gratitude of your God Himself, for unto Him ye faithfully gave back the precious charge committed to your keeping, in the person of that dear child who became your very own, through Faith and Baptism. And thou too, Vitus, noble boy, who didst prefer thy Father in Heaven to thine earthly parent,—who may tell the caressing tenderness lavished upon thee eternally, by Him whom before men thou didst so unflinchingly own, to be thy true Father?
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, by the prayers of these holy Martyrs, that thy Church may be free from all pride, and improve daily in humility; that declining all that is evil, she may freely practise that which is just and good. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
One of the titles of this Divine Spirit who is reigning so specially over this portion of the Cycle, is the Witness of the Word (St. John, xv. 26). Thus was He announced to the world, by the Man-God Himself, when about to quit it in order to return to His Father, after having on His part, rendered His own great testimony to Sovereign Truth (St. John, xviii. 37). Formed by the Holy Ghost on the type of Jesus Christ, the Faithful too are Witnesses, whose mission is to trample upon lying error, the enemy of God, by expressing the Truth, not in words only but in deeds. There is a testimony however, that is not given unto all to render, this is the Testimony of blood; the Martyrs hold this privilege, this is the special stand granted to them in the ceaseless battle ever being waged betwixt Truth and Falsehood, and this battle is the sum total of all History. Hence Martyrs come crowding on the brilliant heavens of Holy Church at this season. In a few days, the Church will be all thrilling with gladness at the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, that man great beyond all men (St. Matth, xi. 11), and whose greatness specially consists in that he was sent by God to be a witness, to give testimony of the Light (St. John, i. 6, 8). We shall then meditate at leisure, upon these thoughts for which we seem to be prepared, by the ever swelling groups of joyous Martyrs, who cross our path as it were to announce the near approach of the Friend of the Bridegroom (St. John, iii. 29).
To-day we have Vitus, accompanied by his faithful foster-parents, Modestus and Crescentia,—he is but a child, yet he comes teaching us the price of Baptism and the fidelity we owe to our Father in Heaven, despite all else beside. Great is his glory, both on earth and in heaven; the demons who used to tremble before him in life, still continue their dread of him. His name remains ineffacably inscribed on the memory of the Christian people, just as that of a Saint Elmo or Erasmus, among their most potent “helpers” in daily needs. Saint Vitus, or more commonly St. Guy is invoked to deliver those who are attacked by that lamentable sickness which is named from him, as also to neutralise bad effects from the bite of a mad dog, and his beneficence is evinced even to the dumb brutes also. He is likewise implored in cases of lethargy, or unduly prolonged sleep; for this reason, the cock is his distinctive attribute in Christian art, as well as because recourse is usually had to this Saint, when one wants to awake at some particular hour.
Let us now turn to what the Liturgy relates of our to-day's Saints:
Vitus whilst yet a child was baptised, unknown to his father. When his father found this out, he used his best endeavours to dissuade his son from the Christian religion, but as he found him persistent in it, be handed him over to Valerian, the Judge, to be whipped. But as he still remained as unshaken as before, he was given back to his father. But while his father was turning over in his mind, to what severe discipline to subject him, Vitus, being warned by an Angel, fled to another country, in company with Modestus and Crescentia, who had brought him up. There, he gained great praise for holiness, so that his fame reached Diocletian. The Emperor, therefore, sent for him to deliver his own child that was vexed by a devil. Vitus delivered him; but when the Emperor found that with all his gifts, he could not bring him to worship the gods, he had the ingratitude to cast him, as well as Modestus and Crescentia, into prison, binding them with fetters.
But when they were found, in the prison, more faithful than ever to their confession, the Emperor commanded them to be thrown into a great vessel full of burning resin and pitch and melted lead. Therein they, like the three Hebrew Children in the fiery furnace, sang praise to God; and upon that they were dragged out and cast to a lion; but he only lay down before them and licked their feet. Then, the Emperor being filled with fury, more especially because he saw that the multitude that looked on were stirred up by the miracle,—commanded Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia to be stretched upon a block and their limbs crushed so that their bones were broken. While they were dying, there came thunderings, and lightnings and earthquakes, so that the temples of the gods fell down, and many men were killed. Their remains were gathered up by a noble lady named Florentia who embalming them with spices, honorably buried them.
An account of Ss. Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia.
In the beginning of the Fourth Century
These saints are mentioned with distinction in the ancient Martyrologies. According to their acts they were natives of Sicily. Vitus or Guy was a child nobly born, who had the happiness to be instructed in the faith, and inspired with the most perfect sentiments of his religion by his Christian nurse, named Crescentia, and her faithful husband Modestus. His father Hylas was extremely incensed when he discovered the child's invincible aversion to idolatry; and finding him not to be overcome by stripes and such like chastisements, he delivered him up to Valerian, the governor, who in vain tried all his arts to work him into compliance with his father’s will and the emperor’s edicts. He escaped out of their hands, and, together with Crescentia and Modestus, fled into Italy. They there met with the crown of martyrdom in Lucania, in the persecution of Dioclesian. The heroic spirit of martyrdom which we admire in St. Vitus, was owing to the early impressions of piety which he received from the lessons and example of a virtuous nurse: of such infinite importance is the choice of virtuous preceptors, nurses, and servants about children.
This reflection unfolds the reason why certain courts and ages were so fruitful in saints. The pagan Romans were solicitous that no slave should ever have access to their children who did not speak with perfect elegance and purity of language; and shall not a Christian be as careful as to manners and virtue? It is a fatal mistake to imagine that infants are ever too young to be infected with the contagion of vice. No age receives deeper impressions, or observes more narrowly every thing that passes in others; nor is any thing so easily or so insensibly imbibed as a spirit of vanity, pride, revenge, obstinacy, or sloth; or harder to be ever corrected. What a happiness for an infant to be formed from the mother's breast as it were naturally to all virtue, and for the spirit of simplicity, meekness, goodness, and piety to be moulded in its tender frame? Such a foundation being well laid, further graces are abundantly communicated, and a soul improves daily these seeds, and rises to the height of Christian virtue often without experiencing severe conflicts of the passions.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Time After Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. VI, 1866; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Ss. Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia, pray for us.