Saint of the Day – 11 January – St Vitalis of Gaza (Died c 625) Monk, Hermit and apostle of charity and prayer.
Roman martyrology: At Gaza, Vitalis was a monk for many years and earned considerable controversy for his methods in reforming the local prostitutes and scandalous women.
Vitalis was a monk of Gaza, of unknown origin, who in his monk’s dress, at the age of 60, arrived in the gay and dazzling city of Alexandria, Egypt, like a ghost of the desert. In his lonely cell he had read the story of the woman taken in adultery and had felt impelled to travel to the city and work among the prostitutes. He obtained the name and address of every harlot, hired himself our as a day labourer and every night took his wage to one of these unfortunate women.
It was a very strange and unconventional procedure. He would sup with the woman, then, giving her the money, would say: “I pay thee this, that thou mayest spend one night without sin.” Afterwards he would pray with her, often passing the night in reciting the Psalms and, on leaving, would extract a solemn promise that she would tell no one of the nature of his visit.
It led to great scandal and he was gravely misunderstood, but the Church refused to intervene and he continued his mission. Thus he visited in turn every harlot in Alexandria and many, moved by his purity and sincerity as well as by his earnest appeal, abandoned their shameful calling. Many, indeed, afterwards married and became good wives and mothers.
Vitalis was killed when a man, misunderstanding the nature of the monk’s visit to a brothel, struck him on the head. Vitalis managed to return to his hut where he died. Apparently during his burial, former prostitutes came out to explain his works before processing with candles and lanterns as his body was brought to the grave.