Today is the feast day of Saint Pantaleon. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Pantaleon (also known as Saint Panteleimon) was born about 284 A.D. in the city of Nicodemia (currently called Izmit, in northern Turkey near the Black Sea). He died a martyr about 305. St. Pantaleon was a contemporary of the brothers Cosmas and Damien who are perhaps the best known of the physician saints. Saint Pantaleonne is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
Nicomedia, a city in Bithynia, was the birth-place of St. Pantaleon. His mother, Eubula, was a Christian, but Eustorgius, his father, a heathen. The former died before he was baptized, and the latter reared him in the darkness of idolatry, and instructed him carefully in the same. Pantaleon, whose appearance was prepossessing, and who, besides this, was gifted with great talents, studied medicine and acquired such knowledge, that he not only gained the esteem of the lower classes, but also stood in great favor with the Emperor Galerius Maximian. At that period there lived in the same city a pious and zealous priest, named Hermolaus, who, on account of the persecutions, secretly instructed the Christians, and encouraged them to remain faithful to Christ. Having sought an opportunity to become acquainted with Pantaleon, he conversed one day with him upon the art of healing certain diseases; and on this occasion spoke of the true God, adding that by calling on Jesus Christ, as the Lord of life and death, one could heal diseases much better than by human remedies; that even the dead could be restored to life, if it so pleased the Lord, and one called upon Him with due confidence. Hermolaus confirmed his words by relating several examples of miraculous cases and restoration to life, and exhorted Pantaleon most earnestly to become one of the number of those who believed in Christ, and who worshipped no other God in heaven or on earth. Pantaleon was deeply impressed by the words of the pious priest, and promised to consider carefully all he had heard.
One day, while he was occupied with the thought whether all was true that Hermolaus had told him, he found on his way a dead child, and near it a viper, which probably had killed the child. Remembering what he had heard of the omnipotence of the God of the Christians, he was filled with trust in Him, and said to the dead child: “I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, rise! “and to the viper: “And be thou punished for having killed this poor child!” At the same moment, the dead child arose to his feet, and the viper burst before his eyes. Amazed at this evident miracle, Pantaleon went forthwith to Hermolaus, related to him what had just occurred, and humbly begged for holy baptism, which he received after having been sufficiently instructed in the faith of Christ. Not satisfied with his own conversion, he endeavored also to bring his father to the knowledge of the true God, and took every opportunity to speak to him of the falsity of those idols which were so devoutly worshipped and on account of which the Christians, who refused to sacrifice to them, were so cruelly persecuted. God so ordered, that just at a time when he was thus conversing with his father, a blind man came to him, who bitterly complained that the physicians, instead of healing his eyes, had entirely deprived him of his sight, and asked him if he could help him. “Will you promise me to embrace the Christian faith if I restore your sight?” asked Pantaleon. “I will,” replied the blind man. Then Pantaleon, making the sign of the holy cross over him, said: “In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, open thine eyes!” And the man, opening his eyes, saw.
This miracle opened the inner eyes of Pantaleon’s father, those eyes with which we recognize God. Seeing that the words of his son were true, he said to him: “I must believe now that the God of the Christians is the only true God.” Inexpressibly happy, Pantaleon went, with his father and the man who had been blind, to the pious priest, who instructed and baptized both. Pantaleon’s father, soon after, died and left his great wealth to his son, who sold the greatest part of it and divided the money among the poor, that he might have more leisure to prepare himself for the struggle which he knew was awaiting him, being convinced that he would have to suffer greatly when his conversion came to the knowledge of the Emperor. Meanwhile, he gave all his care to the sick, healing many of them by merely making the sign of the cross over them, and thus converting them to the Christian faith.
The other physicians envied the Saint, on account of his many cures, and, fearing that he would gradually draw all the sick to himself, they resolved to put him out of the way. They, therefore, denounced him to the Emperor as a Christian who cured the sick by the usual magic of his sect. They particularly related how he had, not long before, restored sight to a blind man. The Emperor called this man into his presence, and asked him how, and by whom his sight had been restored. The man told the simple truth, that Pantaleon, by calling upon Christ, had immediately given him back his sight, adding that he had recognized, by this fact, that the God of the Christians was the only true God, and hence had resolved to worship Him only. The Emperor became so incensed at these words, that he ordered this fearless confessor of Christ to be beheaded without loss of time. He then had Pantaleon brought, and asked him if it was true that he was a Christian. Pantaleon, without hesitation, confessed his faith, and represented the falsity of the heathen gods so clearly, that neither the Emperor nor any of those present could bring an argument against him. At the conclusion of his speech, he said that he was ready to prove the truth of his God, and the vanity of the heathen idols. “Let them bring,” said he, “a sick person, of whose recovery there is no hope. Then call all the idolatrous priests, in order that they may pray to their gods, while I will ask the aid of my God; and then we shall see whether your gods are able to restore the sick man to health. I know that my God has the power.”
They accepted this proposition, and brought an incurable paralytic man. The priests began to call on all their gods, one after another, as in ancient times the priests of Baal had done in the presence of King Achab and the holy prophet Elias. But the sick man’s health did not improve. After the idolaters had for a long time vainly endeavored to receive help from their gods, the Christian physician stepped forward, and, after saying a short prayer, he made the sign of the cross over the sick man, and said with a loud voice: ” In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, rise, restored to health.” And at the same time the paralyzed man arose and cried: “There is no other God but the God of the Christians! ” This miracle soon became known all over the city, and induced many heathens to join the faithful. The Emperor, however, provoked beyond measure by the idolatrous priests against Pantaleon, commanded that he should be first tortured and afterwards beheaded. Hermolaus, who was not less faithful to Christ than Pantaleon, was beheaded at the same time. Both received the crown of martyrdom in the 305 th year of the Christian era. (2)
The fact of the martyrdom itself seems to be proved by a veneration for which there is early testimony, among others from Theodoret from 457 (Graecarum affectionum curatio, Sermo VIII, “De martyribus”, in Migne, P.G., LXXXIII 1033), Procopius of Caesarea (De aedificiis Justiniani I, ix; V, ix), and the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum” (Acta SS., Nov., II, 1, 97). Pantaleon is venerated in the East as a great martyr and wonderworker. In the Middle Ages he came to be regarded as the patron saint of physicians and midwives, and became one of the fourteen guardian martyrs. From early times a phial containing some of his blood has been preserved at Constantinople. On the feast day of the saint the blood is said to become fluid and to bubble. Relics of the saint are to be found at St. Denis at Paris; his head is venerated at Lyons. His feast day is 27 July, also 28 July, and 18 February. (4)
Pantaleon’s relics, venerated at Nicomedia, were transferred to Constantinople. Numerous churches, shrines, and monasteries have been named for him; in the West most often as St. Pantaleon and in the East as St. Panteleimon; to him is consecrated the St. Panteleimon Monastery at Mount Athos, and the 12th-century Church of St. Panteleimon in Gorno Nerezi, in the Republic of Macedonia.
In Cologne a 10th Century Romanesque church, partly built by the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, Theophanu, who married the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II in 972.
Prayer in Honor of St. Pantaleon
O GOD, Who didst give to St. Pantaleon the grace of exercising charity toward his fellow men by distributing his goods to the poor, and hast made him a special patron of the sick, grant that we, too, show our charity by works of mercy; and through the intercession of this Thy servant preserve us from sickness. But if it be Thy will that illness should afflict us, give us the grace to bear it patiently, and let it promote our soul’s salvation. Amen.
Invocation of St. Pantaleon
ST. PANTALEON, who during life didst have great pity for the sick and with the help of
God didst often relieve and cure them; I invoke thy intercession with God, that I may obtain the grace to serve Him in good health by cheerfully fulfilling the duties of my state of life. But if it be His holy will to visit me with illness, pain, and suffering, do thou aid me with thy powerful prayer to submit humbly to His chastisements, to accept sickness in the spirit of penance and to bear it patiently according to His holy will. Amen.
Research by REGINA Staff
Image: Schwabach – City Church. Altar of Saint Sebastian ( 1490 ) with closed wings showing the Fourteen Holy Helpers – Saint Pantaleon. (9)