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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!
Cui Vitus: "Accedant dii tui et te sanent, si possunt."
Tunc eum in domum ducens
Ad templum igitur Iovis deducitur
Interea filius Diocletiani imperatoris
|© The segmented texts, annotations and audio files at BestLatin.net are copyrighted by Laura Gibbs, 2006. No copyright is claimed for any images.|