Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs
from the Liturgical Year, 1903

Feast Day: September 27th

Honor the physician for the need thou hast of him: for the most High hath created him. For all healing is from God, and he shall receive gifts of the king. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be praised. The most High hath created medicines out of the earth, and a wise man will not abhor them. Was not bitter water made sweet with wood? The virtue of these things is come to the knowledge of men, and the most High hath given knowledge to men, that he may be honoured in his wonders. By these he shall cure and shall allay their pains, and of these the apothecary shall make sweet confections, and shall make up ointments of health, and of his works there shall be no end. For the peace of God is over the face of the earth. My son, in thy sickness neglect not thyself, but pray to the Lord, and he shall heal thee. Turn away from sin and order thy hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all offence. Give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour, and make a fat offering, and then give place to the physician. For the Lord created him: and let him not depart from thee, for his works are necessary. For there is a time when thou must fall into their hands : and they shall beseech the Lord, that he would prosper what they give for ease and remedy, for their conversation (Eccli. xxxviii, 1-15.).

These words of the Wise Man are appropriate for this feast. The Church, obeying the inspired injunction, honours the medical profession in the persons of Cosmas and Damian, who not only, like many others, sanctified themselves in that career; but, far beyond all others, demonstrated to the world how grand a part the physician may play in Christian society.

Cosmas and Damian had been Christians from their childhood. The study of Hippocrates and Galen developed their love of God, whose invisible perfections they admired reflected in the magnificences of creation, and especially in the human body his palace and his temple. To them, science was a hymn of praise to their Creator, and the exercise of their art a sacred ministry; they served God in his suffering members, and watched over his human sanctuary, to preserve it from injury or to repair its ruins. Such a life of religious charity was fittingly crowned by the perfect sacrifice of martyrdom.

East and West vied with each other in paying homage to the Anargyres (Without fees), as our Saints were called on account of their receiving no fees for their services. Numerous churches were dedicated to them. The emperor Justinian embellished and fortified the obscure town of Cyrus out of reverence for their sacred relics there preserved; and about the same time, Pope Felix IV. built a church in their honour in the Roman Forum, thus substituting the memory of the twin martyrs for that of the less happy brothers Romulus and Remus. Not long before this, St. Benedict had dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian his first monastery at Subiaco, now known as St. Scholastica's. But Rome rendered the highest of all honours to the holy Arabian brethren, by placing their names, in preference to so many thousands of her own heroes, in the solemn litanies and on the sacred diptychs of the Mass.

In the middle ages, the physicians and surgeons banded together into confraternities, whose object was the sanctification of the members by common prayer, charity towards the destitute, and the accomplishment of all the duties of their important vocation for the greater glory of God and the greater good of suffering humanity. The Society of Sts. Luke, Cosmas and Damian has now undertaken in France the renewal of these happy traditions.

The following is the Church's account of the two brothers.

The brothers Cosmas and Damian were Arabians of noble extraction, born in the town of Aegae. They were physicians; and during the reign of Diocletian and Maximian, healed even incurable maladies no less by Christ's assistance than by their knowledge of medicine. The prefect Lysias, being informed of their religion, ordered them to be brought before him, and questioned them on their faith and their manner of life. They openly declared that they were Christians, and that the Christian faith is necessary to salvation; whereupon Lysias commanded them to adore the gods, threatening them, if they refused, with torture and a cruel death.

But as the prefect saw his threats were in vain: ''Bind their hands and feet, he cried, "and torture them with the utmost cruelty." His commands were executed, but Cosmas and Damian remained firm. They were then thrown, chained as they were, into the sea, but came out safe and loosed from their bonds. The prefect attributing this to magical arts ordered them to prison. The next day, he commanded them to be led forth and thrown on a burning pile, but the flame refused to touch them. Finally, after several other cruel tortures, they were beheaded; and thus confessing Jesus Christ, they won the palm of martyrdom.


In you, O illustrious brethren, was fulfilled this saying of the Wise Man : The skill of the physician shall lift up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be praised. The great ones, in whose sight you are exalted, are the princes of the heavenly hierarchies, witnessing today the homage paid to you by the Church militant. The glory that surrounds your heads is the glory of God Himself, of that bountiful king, who rewards your former disinterestedness by bestowing upon you his own blessed life.

In the bosom of divine love, your charity cannot wax cold; help us, then, and heal the sick who confidently implore your assistance. Preserve the health of God's children, so that they may fulfill their obligations in the world, may courageously bear the light yoke of the Church's precepts. Bless those physicians who are faithful to their baptism, and who seek your aid; and increase the number of such.

See how the study of medicine now so often leads astray into the paths of materialism and fatalism, to the great detriment of science and humanity. It is false to assert that simple nature is the explanation of suffering and death; and unfortunate are those whose physicians regard them as mere flesh and blood. Even the pagan school took a loftier view than that; and it was surely a higher ideal that inspired you to exercise your art with such religious reverence. By the virtue of your glorious death, O witnesses to the Lord, obtain for our sickly society a return to the faith, to the remembrance of God, and to that piety which is profitable to all things and all men, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. Amen

Sts. Cosmas and Damian
by Fr. Francis Xavier, 1876

Sts. Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born of rich Christian parents, at Aegae in Cilicia. Both studied medicine, in order to have an opportunity to gain the Pagans to Christ, and encourage the Christians to virtue as well as to constancy in their faith. God blessed their medical skill to such an extent, that they became celebrated through the whole country for the happy cures which they effected, and pagans, as well as Christians had recourse to them in all dangerous diseases. They asked no fee from their patients, but served them out of love to God. When they visited a patient, they inquired into his ailings, and then cured him by making the sign of the cross over him. They even restored sight to the blind, and made the lame walk. Many heathens, healed in this manner, were converted to the Christian faith, as they not only became convinced of the power of the holy cross, but were also taught by the holy brothers who He was who had died for us on the cross. Hence these two holy physicians were rightly esteemed and honored as apostles by the Christians.

The heathens, however, regarded them as the greatest enemies of their gods: and when the Governor Lysias, by the order of Dioclesian and Maximian, came to Aegas, to exterminate the Christians there, these two brothers were the first who were denounced as magicians and corrupters of the people. Lysias called them to account, but they said fearlessly: "We are no magicians, no corrupters of the people; but in faith, Christians, and physicians by profession. We are not actuated by selfish motives, by lust of gain, in the practice of our science, as we take remuneration from no one. The happy cures we make we owe not so much to our knowledge, as to the power of Jesus Christ, whom we worship as the true God." It was enough for the governor to know that both professed Christianity. He ordered them to be bound, whipped, and then thrown into the sea. The first of these orders was immediately most cruelly executed, but with the second he did not succeed; for, an angel of the Lord loosened the fetters of the Martyrs and brought them back to the shore, healed of the wounds which they had received in the barbarous whipping. When Lysias was informed of this, he ordered them to be burned alive. They were cast into a burning furnace, but remained unharmed. The tyrant then had them bound to a cross and commanded stones and arrows to be thrown at them; but both stones and arrows rebounded from them without doing them the least injury, while they severely wounded the heathens who were standing around. A great many were converted by this miracle. Lysias alone remained unmoved; and as he knew no other tortures, he condemned the two Saints to die by the sword.

Practical Consideration

Cosmas and Damian showed great love to the sick, but desired no recompense, because they did it all out of love to God. To labor and to suffer for the love of God is the best intention, and one we should endeavor to cultivate. It is a good and holy intention, when I do or suffer anything to escape hell, but it is a I still better one when I do or suffer anything to gain salvation. It is known that even great saints have made use of such intentions. The noblest and most excellent intention, however, is to do and suffer for the pure love of God only. Make this intention early in the morning, when you say your prayers, and renew it often during the day. Turn your thoughts frequently to the Almighty and say: "Lord, out of love to Thee! to Thy honor!" Especially ought you to do this when what you are about to do is tedious; for this intention will lighten it. Sick persons, who cannot pray much, ought to accustom themselves to repeat these words. Frequently ought they to say or think, while looking up to heaven or to the crucifix: "Lord, I bear this suffering from love to Thee! All out of love to Thee, O my God!" This will bring them consolation arid prove very meritorious. I say very meritorious, yes, even in the highest degree. It will obtain great recompense in heaven; for, St. Chrysostom assures us: "Let us not believe that we shall have no reward when we endeavor to obtain none; for, our recompense will be so much sweeter in heaven."

Act of Resignation

Lord, I accept this sickness from Thy Fatherly hands; I entirely resign myself to Thy blessed will, whether it be for life or death. Not my will, but Thine be done; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

A Devout Practice

The faithful who visit the sick in hospitals in order to perform the works of charity, may gain: an indulgence of 7 years.--The Raccolta, 1943