August 31, 2017

Saint Giles, Abbot and Confessor

St. Giles

Feast Day - September 1st

In our culture that often promotes self-aggrandizement, the life of Saint Giles serves as a reminder that it is humility that is actually the road to true greatness. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of saints the Church venerates because their intercession is believed to be particularly effective against various diseases. The designation dates to the 14th century in the Rhineland. It began as a devotion seeking their aid during the bubonic plague known as the Black Death.

Although we do not know the exact date of his birth, scholars speculate that it was sometime in the middle of the 7th century A.D. What is fairly certain is that he was born into a noble Athenian family, and that he left his native country for France, following the death of both his parents. In the depth of a forest near Nimes, he lived in the hollow of a rock in a green glade shaded by four gigantic oaks. When his reputation for piety and miracle-working spread, it would lead to immense renown and adulation that the future saint neither sought nor desired.

For several years he lived the life of a poor hermit, meditating constantly and conversing only with God. His sole companion was a female deer that, ironically, was the instrument through which he was discovered. She was chased into Giles’ cave one day by the King’s hunting party, and an arrow meant for the animal accidentally struck Giles instead. Impressed by the holiness of the hermit, the King [Flavius, king of the Visigoths] sent his own doctors to care for his wound.

Though Giles refused to leave his solitude, the King continued to visit him and eventually built a monastery near his cave to house all those who wished to follow in Giles’ footsteps. St. Giles died sometime between 710 and 724. He is the patron saint of beggars and the disabled, and was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Grant, we beseech you, O Lord, that the prayers of your holy Abbot, blessed Giles may commend us unto you: that we, who have no power of ourselves, may by his advocacy find favor with you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.

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