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Vitus et Modestus

June 15
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Maggioni 77
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June 15: Vitus - patron saint of late sleepers

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Today, June 15, is the day of Saint Vitus. The story of his martyrdom is full of great details; you can read the Latin version from the Legenda Aurea below (Maggioni 77). Caxton's English translation is available online, and you can read more about Saint Vitus at wikipedia, Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Forum, Catholic Online, and at the webpages of Saint Patrick's Cathedral (DC). You can read the Latin offices for Saint Vitus at breviary.net.

Vitus is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (as is Saint Erasmus, whose feast day is on June 2). Vitus's story is legendary, and as a result his cult was restricted to local calendars in 1969, and the cults of his companions Modestus and Crescentia, whom you will read about in the story below, were suppressed (but Modesto California has not changed its name...).

Vitus is probably most famous today in the term Saint Vitus's Dance, but Saint Vitus himself did not dance (in fact, his father tries to use musicians and dancing girls to lure the boy away from his devotions). The term Saint Vitus's Dance derives from a German cult practice when worshippers would dance around the statue of Saint Vitus on June 15 for good luck. As a result of this agitated dancing practice, Saint Vitus became associated with a muscular disorder (chorea) which was called Saint Vitus's dance, and people suffering from this disease would pray to Saint Vitus for help. Vitus also became the patron saint of dancers. You can read more about dancing and midsummer at Wilson's Almanac website, where this image comes from:

What I like best is that Saint Vitus is the patron saint invoked when you are worried about sleeping late! One of the legends about Saint Vitus tells that when he was thrown into a pot of boiling oil, a rooster was thrown in with him (this is not included in the Legenda Aurea story). As a result, Vitus was sometimes depicted with a rooster, and became associated with the rooster's crow at dawn and rising early. So you could pray to Saint Vitus to help get up early in the morning. Here is a picture of the rooster on top of the Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague (and here's another view):

Here, then, is the story of Saint Vitus as told in the Legenda Aurea. It is one of the most lively stories you will find in the Legenda, and it is also remarkable for being specifically about a child martyr, a puer who defies his own father, the local prefect, and the emperor himself!

Vitus
puer egregius et fidelis
annorum XII
in Sicilia martyrium pasus est.
Hic a patre crebro verberabatur
ex eo quod ydola contempnebat
nec ipsa adorare volebat;
quod audiens
Valerianus praefectus puerum accersivit
et sacrificare nolentem fustibus caedi iussit;
bracchia autem verberantium et manus praefecti
statim aruerunt.
Clamavitque praefectus:
"Vae mihi, quia manum amisi!"

(stained glass of this incident from St. Vitus Cathedral)

Cui Vitus: "Accedant dii tui et te sanent, si possunt."
Cui ille: "Numquid et tu facere vales hoc?"
Cui Vitus: "In nomine dei mei valeo."
Statimque pro eo oravit et sanitatem sibi obtinuit.
Dixitque praefectus patri:
"Corripe puerum tuum ne male pereat."

Tunc eum in domum ducens
diversis musicorum generibus et puellarum lusibus
aliarumque deliciarum generibus
immutare animum pueri satagebat.
Cum autem eum in thalamum inclusisset,
mirabilis odoris fragrantia inde exiit,
quae patrem et totam familiam nimio odore perfudit.
Aspiciensque pater per ostium
vidit septem angelos circa infantem stantes
dixitque: "Dii venerunt in domum meam."
Statimque caecatus est.
Ad cuius clamorem tota civitas Lucana commota est
ita ut Valerianus accurreret
et quid sibi accideret interrogavit.
Cui ille: "Deos vidi igneos
et vultum eorum ferre non potui."

Ad templum igitur Iovis deducitur
et pro recuperatione luminis
taurum cum cornibus aureis pollicetur,
sed cum nihil proficeret
filium pro sua sanatione rogavit
et lumen suis precibus recuperavit.
Cum autem nec sic crederet,
sed potius filium occidere cogitaret,
angelus domini
Modesto pedagogo eius apparuit
et ut navem conscendens
puerum ad aliam terram deduceret
imperavit.
Quod cum fecisset,
aquila eis cibum afferebat
et multa ibidem miracula faciebant.

Interea filius Diocletiani imperatoris
a demone arripitur
et nisi Vitus Lucanus veniat
se nunquam exire fatetur.
Vitus quaeritur
et inventus ad imperatorem ducitur.
Cui Diocletianus: "Puer,
puerum meum sanare vales?"
Cui ille: "Non ego, sed dominus."
Statimque super eum manus imposuit
et protinus ab eo demon aufugit.
Et ait Diocletianus: "Puer,
consule tibi et diis sacrifica
ne mala morte intereas."
Quod cum ille recusaret
et in carcerem cum Modesto missus fuisset,
subito ferri moles
quae eis erat imposita cecidit
et carcer immenso lumine coruscavit.
Quod cum imperatori nuntiatum fuisset,
eductus in clibanum ardentem mittitur,
sed tamen illaesus egreditur.
Tunc leo terribilis ad eum devorandum mittitur,
sed tamen ab eo fidei virtute placatur.

Tandem ipse
cum Modesto et Crescentia nutrice sua,
quae semper eum secuta fuerat,
in equuleum suspendi iubetur,
sed subito aer turbatur, terra concutitur,
tonitrua mugiunt, ydolorum templa corruunt
et multos occidunt.
Imperator autem territur fugiens
pugnis se percutiebat dicens:
"Vae mihi, quod ab uno puero victus sum!"
Illi autem ab angelo continuo soluti
iuxta quoddam flumen se invenerunt
et ibidem pausantes et orantes
animas domino reddiderunt.
Quorum corpora ab aquilis custodita
Florentia illustris matrona
sancto Vito revelante reperit
et ea accipiens honorifice sepelivit.

 


© The segmented texts, annotations and audio files at BestLatin.net are copyrighted by Laura Gibbs, 2006. No copyright is claimed for any images.