Monday, January 11, 2016

For All the Saints: The Venerable Vitalis

Since this past November, I've been writing about persons who are honored on different liturgical lists. A "saint" can mean someone formally canonized by the Roman Catholic church, or any servant of God who became historically memorable. Lord willing, I'll continue this series until All Saints' Day 2016, which puts me in sight of my sixtieth birthday. It's a personal way that I discipline myself to think about matters of the Spirit as the days and weeks go by, plus I'll learn and share interesting things as I go. I've bookmarked sites of saints on the Lutheran and Episcopal calendars and also a Roman Catholic and an Orthodox site. Most days, I select at least one saint from among these calendars and write something about her or him, based on Wikipedia and other online sites.

Today's saint is a little obscure and certainly had a different kind of discipleship! But I loved this last paragraph about him (all from the Orthodox Saints website). What an excellent lesson for many of us!

"The Venerable Vitalis (5th c.). He lived for many years as a monk in Palestine, then went to Alexandria to labor for the salvation of women living as prostitutes. He worked with his hands by day, keeping only a tenth of his earnings for himself. By night, he would take the rest of his earnings to the prostitutes' quarter and offer his money to one of them, on condition that she would not give herself up to sin that night, but instead stay with him, praying all night for his salvation. When he left her, he would make her promise to tell no one of this arrangement. Not surprisingly, complaints soon reached the Patriarch, St John the Merciful (November 12) about this monk who was causing scandal by his immoral life; but the Patriarch, discerning Vitalis' heart, did nothing. When St Vitalis died, a writing tablet was found near his body, on which was written: "Inhabitants of Alexandria, judge not before the time, until the coming of the Day of the Lord." Then many women who had been converted from an immoral life by the Saint came forward and told of his good deeds. The people of Alexandria honored him with a lavish funeral.

"Saint Vitalis shows us in at least two ways that the wisdom of the holy is foolishness to the world: He never sought to justify himself in the eyes of the world, but on the contrary did everything he could to hide his virtues; and, for all his holiness, he counted himself more sinful than the "fallen," asking them to pray for his salvation."

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