St. Pantaleon, Martyr
HE was physician to the Emperor Galerius Maximianus, and a Christian, but fell by a temptation which is sometimes more dangerous than the severest trials of the fiercest torments; for bad example, if not shunned, insensibly weakens, and at length destroys the strongest virtue. Pantaleon being perpetually obsessed by it in an impious idolatrous court, and deceived by often hearing the false maxims of the world applauded, was unhappily seduced into an apostacy. But a zealous Christian called Hermolaus, by his prudent admonitions awakened his conscience to a sense of his guilt, and brought him again into the fold of the Church. The penitent ardently wished to expiate his crime by martyrdom; and to prepare himself for the conflict, when Dioclesian’s bloody persecution broke out at Nicomedia in 303, he distributed all his possessions among the poor. Not long after this action he was taken up, and in his house were also apprehended Hermolaus, Hermippus, and Hermocrates. After suffering many torments they were all condemned to lose their heads. St. Pantaleon suffered the day after the rest. He is ranked by the Greeks amongst the great martyrs. Procopius mentions a church in his honour at Constantinople, which being decayed was repaired by Justinian. His relics were translated to Constantinople, and there kept with great honour, as St. John Damascen informs us. 1 The greater part of them are now shown in the abbey of St. Denys, near Paris, but his head at Lyons. 1
Physicians honour St. Pantaleon as their chief patron after St. Luke. Happy are they in that profession who improve their study chiefly to glorify the supreme Creator, whose infinite power and wisdom are displayed in all his works; and who, by the opportunities of charity which their art continually offers them, rejoice to afford comfort, and corporal, if not often also spiritual succour, to the most suffering and distressed part of their species, especially among the poor. All the healing powers of medicine are a gift of God; 2 and he himself who could have restored Ezechias to health by the least act of his omnipotent will, directed Isaiah to apply dry figs to the abscess into which his fever was terminating; than which poultice no better remedy could have been used to promote suppuration. 3 St. Ambrose, 4 St. Basil, 5 and St. Bernard, 6 inveigh severely against too nice and anxious a care of health, as a mark of inordinate self-love and immortification; nor is any thing generally more hurtful to it. But as man is not master of his own life or health, he is bound to take a moderate reasonable care not to throw them away. 7 To neglect the more simple and ordinary succours of medicine when absolutely necessary, is to transgress that law of charity which every one owes to himself. 8 The saints who condemned as contrary to their penitential state, far-sought or exquisite means, with St. Charles Borromæo, were scrupulously attentive to essential prescriptions of physicians in simple and ordinary remedies. But let the Christian in sickness seek in the first place the health of his soul by penance, and the exercise of all virtues. Let him also consider God as his chief physician, begging him, if it may be conducive to his divine honour, to restore the frame he created, and entreating our Redeemer to stretch out that hand upon him, with which in his mortal state he restored so many sick to their health. He who trusts more in the art of physicians than in the Lord, will deserve the reproach of Asa, king of Juda. So hidden are often the causes of distempers, so precarious the power of remedies, and so uncertain the skill of the ablest physicians, that their endeavours frequently check nature instead of seconding its efforts, and thus hasten death. The divine blessing alone is the Christian’s sheet-anchor, perfect resignation to the divine will is the secure repose of his soul; and the fervent exercise of penance, patience, and devotion, is his gain in the time of sickness. 2
Note 1. Or. 3, de Imag.
Note 2. Ecclus. xxxviii. 1, 2.
Note 3. 4 Kings xx. 7. See Syn. Critic. and Mead, De Morbis Biblicis, c. 5.
Note 4. Serm. 22, in Ps. 118.
Note 5. Regul. fus. explic.
Note 6. Ep. 345, ol. 321, p. 316, et in Cant.
Note 7. See Estius in Eccli. xxxviii.
Note 8. Ephes. v. 29; Aug. ep. 130, ol. 121, ad Probam.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VII: July.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.