SS. Vitus or Guy, Crescentia, and Modestus, Martyrs
In the Beginning of the Fourth Century.
THESE saints are mentioned with distinction in the ancient Martyrologies. According to their acts they were natives of Sicily. Vitus or Guy was a child nobly born, who had the happiness to be instructed in the faith, and inspired with the most perfect sentiments of his religion by his Christian nurse, named Crescentia, and her faithful husband Modestus. His father Hylas was extremely incensed when he discovered the child’s invincible aversion to idolatry; and finding him not to be overcome by stripes and such like chastisements, he delivered him up to Valerian, the governor, who in vain tried all his arts to work him into compliance with his father’s will and the emperor’s edicts. He escaped out of their hands, and, together with Crescentia and Modestus, fled into Italy. They there met with the crown of martyrdom in Lucania, in the persecution of Dioclesian. The heroic spirit of martyrdom which we admire in St. Vitus, was owing to the early impressions of piety which he received from the lessons and example of a virtuous nurse: of such infinite importance is the choice of virtuous preceptors, nurses, and servants about children. 1
This reflection unfolds the reason why certain courts and ages were so fruitful in saints. The pagan Romans were solicitous that no slave should ever have access to their children who did not speak with perfect elegance and purity of language; and shall not a Christian be as careful as to manners and virtue? It is a fatal mistake to imagine that infants are ever too young to be infected with the contagion of vice. No age receives deeper impressions, or observes more narrowly every thing that passes in others; nor is any thing so easily or so insensibly imbibed as a spirit of vanity, pride, revenge, obstinacy, or sloth; or harder to be ever corrected. What a happiness for an infant to be formed from the mother’s breast as it were naturally to all virtue, and for the spirit of simplicity, meekness, goodness, and piety to be moulded in its tender frame? Such a foundation being well laid, further graces are abundantly communicated, and a soul improves daily these seeds, and rises to the height of Christian virtue often without experiencing severe conflicts of the passions.