lundi 11 janvier 2016

Saint VITAL de GAZA, ermite

Saint Vital de Gaza

(7ème s.)

Il avait soixante ans lorsqu'il réalisa que l'Évangile invite les femmes de "mauvaise vie" à entrer, elles aussi, dans le Royaume de Dieu. Il résolut de les y décider sur place. Il quitta son ermitage de Gaza en Palestine, et rejoignit Alexandrie d'Égypte, célèbre en cela par son quartier du port. Il y loua une petite chambre et fit deux parts de son temps. Le jour, il mendiait l'argent aux portes des bonnes maisons; le soir il mendiait la conversion aux portes du péché. Ces dames le prirent vite en amitié respectueuse tant il était bon et miséricordieux dans ses paroles et ses jugements. Quand il abordait l'une ou l'autre qui était attristée de son métier, il doublait ou triplait ce qu'elle comptait gagner, l'emmenait dans sa chambre et lui parlait du bonheur que donne une vie honnête. Souvent, elles changeaient de vie. Mais les "saintes âmes" dénoncèrent saint Vital à l'évêque qui l'enferma. Les filles de joie passèrent des nuits devant la résidence épiscopale, criant et tapageant, réclamant leur ami. L'évêque comprit. Quelques jours plus tard, saint Vital fut abattu d'un coup de couteau par un souteneur furieux de son action. Près du saint, on trouva cette tablette écrite :"Attendez, pour juger, le jour du jugement."

Vitalis of Gaza, Hermit (AC)

Died c. 625. Vitalis was a monk of Gaza, of unknown origin, who in his monk's dress, at the age of 60, arrived in the gay and dazzling city of Alexandria, Egypt, like a ghost of the desert. In his lonely cell he had read the story of the woman taken in adultery and had felt impelled to travel to the city and work among the prostitutes. He obtained the name and address of every harlot, hired himself our as a day laborer, and every night took his wage to one of these unfortunate women.

It was a very strange and unconventional procedure. He would sup with the woman, then, giving her the money, would say: "I pay thee this, that thou mayest spend one night without sin." Afterwards he would pray with her, often passing the night in reciting the Psalms, and, on leaving, would extract a solemn promise that she would tell no one of the nature of his visit.

It led to great scandal and he was gravely misunderstood, but the Church refused to intervene and he continued his mission. Thus he visited in turn every harlot in Alexandria, and many, moved by his purity and sincerity as well as by his earnest appeal, abandoned their shameful calling. Many, indeed, afterwards married and became good wives and mothers.

But his story ends in tragedy. One day, when leaving a house of ill fame, he was struck on the head by a man who misunderstood his motive. Vitalis made his way back with difficulty to the wretched hovel where he lived, and the crowd that followed, when they entered, found him dead upon his knees. In his hand was a fragment of parchment bearing the words: "Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart."

Then all whom he had helped revealed the secret of his redemptive work, and the whole city gathered to do him honor, the women following him to his grave bearing lamps and candles (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Gill).


Monk and hermit in the Gaza region. At age 60 he felt driven to travel to Alexandria, Egypt and work to save the area prostitutes. He had a unique method – he worked as a day labourer; with each day’s wages he would hire a prostitute for the evening; but instead of the usual services, he requested that she spend the night without sin. To those who would listen he would teach and pray, and from each he extracted a promise to not describe the evening. Not surprisingly, this frequently led to controversy, gossip and opposition, but every investigation cleared him of any charge of impropriety. Some writers claim that he met and prayed with every prostitute in the city, and many of them were led to abandon the life and overcome the things that had driven them to it.

  • he was struck in the head in 625 with a knife by a pimp who saw him leaving a brothel and wanted Vitalis to quit interfering with business in Alexandria, Egypt
  • Vitalis managed to return to his hut and died alone soon after, apparently in prayer

St. Vitalis of the monastery of Abba Serid (Seridos) at Gaza (609-620)

Commemorated on January 11 and April 22

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.