June 15 – Sts Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia, Martyrs
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. 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. 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, and whose greatness specially consists in that he was sent by God to be a witness to give testimony of the light. 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.
Today 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 ineffaceably 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 neutralize 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 today’s Saints:
|Vitus admodum puer inscio patre baptizatus est: quod cum ille rescivisset, nihil prætermisit quo filium a christians religione removeret. Qua in voluntate permanentem Valeriano judici verberibus castigandum tradidit. Sed nihilominus in sententia persistens, patri redditus est. Sed dum eum pater gravius punire cogitat, Vitus, angeli monitu, comitibus Modesto et Crescentia ejus educatoribus, migrat in alienas terras: ibique eam sanctitatis laudem adeptus est, ut ejus fama ad Diocletianum perlata, ipsum imperator accerseret ut filium suum a dæmone vexatum liberaret: quo liberato, cum ei amplissimis præmiis ingratus imperator ut deos coleret persuadere non potuisset, una cum Modesto et Crescentia, vinculis constrictum mittit in carcerem.||Vitus while yet a child was baptized, unknown to his father. When his father found this out, he used his best endeavors to dissuade his son from the Christian religion, but as he found him persistent in it, he 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. This 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 would not bring to worship the gods, he had the ingratitude to cast him, as well as Modestus and Crescentia, into prison, binding them with fetters.|
|Quos ubi constantiores esse comperit, demitti jubet in ingens vas liquato plumbo, ferventi resina ac pice plenum: in quo cum, trium Hebræorum puerorum more, divinos hymnos canerent, inde erepti, leoni objiciuntur; qui prosternens se, eorum pedes lambebat. Quare inflammatus ira imperator, quod multitudinem videbat miraculo commoveri, eos in catasta sterni jubet et ita cædi eorum membra atque ossa divelli. Quo tempore tonitrua, fulgura, magnique terræmotus fuere, quibus templa deorum corruerunt et multi oppressi sunt. Eorum reliquias Florentia, nobilis femina, unguentis conditas honorifice sepelivit.||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.|
You have won the battle, glorious Martyrs! the struggle was not long, but it gained for you an eternal crown! You have purchased unto yourselves, O 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, 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? Even here below he is pleased to load thee with striking marks of his munificence; for to thee he confides, on a large scale, the exercise of his merciful power. Because of that holy liberty which reigned in thy soul, from reason’s earliest dawn, whereby thy body was subjected to thy soul’s control, thou dost now hold over fallen nature a marvelous power. Unhappy sufferers whose distorted limbs are worked violently at the caprice of a cruel malady, and are no longer mastered by the will; or, on the other hand, those who are rendered powerless and no longer free to act, by reason of resistless sleep, all these recover at thy feet that perfect harmony of soul and body, that needful docility of the material to the spiritual, whereby man may freely attend to the duties incumbent on him, whether as regards God or his neighbor. Vouchsafe to be ever more and more lavish in the granting of these favors, which are the precious gifts specially at thy disposal, for the good of suffering mankind, and for the greater glory of thy God who hath given thee an eternal crown. We implore thee, in the words of the Church and by thy merits, that God may destroy in us that pride which spoils the equilibrium of man himself and makes him deviate from his path. May it be granted us to have a thorough contempt of evil, for thus is restored to man liberty in love: “Not to be proud-minded, but to make progress in thy sight by pleasing humility; that despising what is evil, it may exercise with free charity the things which are right.”
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)