Two holy doctors who treated the poor for free … under one unusual condition


Sts. Cosmas and Damian set an example of generosity and faith, to the point of martyrdom.

Saints Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers who became martyrs for Christ. Together with St. Luke the Evangelist, they are venerated as the patron saints of doctors — after all, they were doctors themselves.

Born in Aegeae, currently called Yumurtalık (in present-day Turkey), they had three other brothers: Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius. Their father had already been martyred during one of the persecutions of Christians at the orders of the emperor Diocletian. Their mother, Theodota, is venerated as a saint in the Ordodox Church.

The twins studied science in Syria, where they also studied medicine. They practiced their profession in Aegeae, where they earned a great reputation for healing the sick, not only thanks to their knowledge but also to miracles attained through their prayers.

The people of the East call Cosmas and Damian “unmercenary physicians,” a term for those who heal for love, not for profit, because they worked for free. Instead of charging money, they asked for one thing that surprised many of their patients: they requested to be allowed to talk to their patients about Jesus.

This practice, however, began to bother the governor of Cilicia, Lysias, who tried to force them to stop preaching the Gospel. He failed. Seeing that they persisted in bearing witness to their faith, he ordered that they be thrown into the sea, but a great wave returned them to the beach safe and sound. For his second attempt, Lysias ordered that the twins be burned alive, but the flames, instead of burning the holy brothers, turned back on the pagan torturers.

In the end, the sibling doctors were decapitated, heroically embracing martyrdom in the name of Jesus Christ.

Miraculous cures started to happen at their graves, benefitting—among others—the emperor of Constantinople himself, Justinian: after going to the tomb of the two martyrs, he was miraculously cured of a serious illness that his doctors hadn’t managed to treat successfully.

The liturgical feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian is September 26.

Even today, there are doctors who follow the example of these saintly siblings, helping those in need for free and sharing their faith experience, through organizations such as Somos. May we all be generous with the talents we have received, willing to help those in need and to bear witness to our faith.

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