Sunday, August 30, 2009

September 27th: Sts Cosmas & Damian

Saints Cosmas and Damian, by Fra Angelico

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Saints Cosmas and Damian were early Christian physicians and martyrs whose feast is celebrated on 27 September. They were twins, born in Arabia, and practised the art of healing in the seaport Ægea, now Ayash (Ajass), on the Gulf of Iskanderun in Cilicia, Asia Minor, and attained a great reputation. They accepted no pay for their services and were, therefore, called anargyroi, "the silverless". In this way they brought many to the Catholic Faith. When the Diocletian persecution began, the Prefect Lysias had Cosmas and Damian arrested, and ordered them to recant. They remained constant under torture, in a miraculous manner suffered no injury from water, fire, air, nor on the cross, and were finally beheaded with the sword.

Their three brothers, Anthimus, Leontius, and Euprepius died as martyrs with them. The execution took place 27 September, probably in the year 287. At a later date a number of fables grew up about them, connected in part with their relics. The remains of the martyrs were buried in the city of Cyrus in Syria; the Emperor Justinian I (527-565) sumptuously restored the city in their honour. Having been cured of a dangerous illness by the intercession of Cosmas and Damian, Justinian, in gratitude for their aid, rebuilt and adorned their church at Constantinople, and it became a celebrated place of pilgrimage. At Rome Pope Felix IV (526-530) erected a church in their honour, the mosaics of which are still among the most valuable art remains of the city. The Greek Church celebrates the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian on 1 July, 17 October, and 1 November, and venerates three pairs of saints of the same name and profession. Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons and are sometimes represented with medical emblems. They are invoked in the Canon of the Mass and in the Litany of the Saints.

Basic Stats
Born: 3rd century AD, Arabia

Died: c. 287 AD, Aegea, Roman province of Syria
Major shrine: Convent of the Poor Clares in Madrid, Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Bitonto, Bari, Italy
Feast: September 27
Symbolism:  depicted as twins, beheaded, or with medical emblems
Patronage: surgeons, physicians, dentists, protectors of children, barbers, pharmacists, veterinarians, orphanages, day-care centers, confectioners, children in house, against hernia, against the plague.

Teachers' Help:
Discuss the moral role of physicians in the time of Saints Cosmas and Damian, and their role today.  How was the practice of medicine different in the 3rd century?  Read the Hypocratic Oath, the original and modern versions.  Research its beginnings.  Discuss whether it is in keeping with Catholic morality and whether modern physicians, in general, seem to abide by its promises. (There is an interesting -- scary --commentary here...)