Cosmas and Damian

The Saints of God Cosmas and Damian were denounced in the persecution of Diocletian the Emperor. That much is sure. What follows almost sounds like a Monty Python sketch: They were crucified, then stoned, then attacked by archers and finally beheaded.

But perhaps this form of martyrdom isn’t a classic example of overkill. The legend of St. Miniato says that after being thrown in a furnace, stoned, and fed to the leopards (the lions must have been on vacation) and yet remaining unscathed, he was executed by beheading. But wait, there’s more! He is then said to have stood up, picked up his head and carried it to the top of the hill outside Florence where he is now buried, presumably actually dead.

The point here is not to make fun of these legends, but rather to see in these incredible claims the kind of devotion that the saints inspired. The life force, what we might call grace, of Saints Cosmas and Damian was so powerful during their lives, and they continued to be so powerful after their death in the way they inspired Christians, that a normal means of killing could not have been sufficient. And so legend is born.

These saints gave so much medical care free of charge during their lives that they are known in the Eastern Church as the “un-mercenaries”  and after their deaths, those who prayed for their intercession continued to receive an abundance of grace from God. But that is not why they are mentioned in the Mass. More likely they are in the Roman Eucharistic Prayer I because one of the churches dedicated to them is the former Library of Peace in the Vespasian Forum in central Rome. So even when it comes to saints, it is often, “Location, location, location.”

– Dr. Glenn Byer, Associate Publisher

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