Saints of the Day – 26 September – Saints Cosmas and Damian (Died c 286) Martyrs, Twin brothers and Physicians, Apostles of Charity, Evangelists – born in the 3rd century, of Arabic descent and died by being tortured, without suffering any injury and finally they were beheaded c 286 in Aegea, Cilicia (modern Ayas, Turkey). They practised their profession in the seaport of Aegeae, then in the Roman province of Syria. Patronages – surgeons, physicians, dentists, protectors of children, barbers, pharmacists, veterinarians, orphanages, day-care centres, confectioners, children in house, against hernia, against the plague, midwives, Alberobello, Italy, Ossimo, Italy.
Their charity and Christian witness won many converts to the faith and earned them a place of prominence in the Christian communities of Asia Minor. Therefore, when the Diocletian persecutions began in the latter half of the third century they were of some of the first to be sought out for execution.
Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, born in Arabia, who went to Syria to study and practice medicine. But they were concerned about more than healing bodies. They brought their belief in Christ to those to whom they ministered. Not only that but they also served people without charging any fees. Lysias, the governor of Celicia, heard about these two brothers and he summoned them before him. When Cosmas and Damian proclaimed they were Christians, Lysias had them tortured and finally beheaded.
Devotion to these two brothers grew and many cures were said to have been worked through their intercessions. Later a church in their honour was constructed over the site of their burial. When the Emperor Justinian was sick, he prayed to Saints Cosmas and Damian for a cure. Out of gratitude for receiving this favour, he enlarged the city of Cyr and its church. Numerous other churches were erected for them at Constantinople and Rome. Nine centuries later, St Francis of Assisi rebuilt the dilapidated San Damiano chapel outside Assisi.
The veneration of Cosmas and Damian quickly spread, accounts of their martyrdom were written by various authors such as St Andrew of Crete, Peter of Argos, Theodore II Laskaris, and a certain Maximus around 1300. The legends are preserved also in Syriac, Coptic, Georgian, Armenian and Latin.
The martyr twins are remembered in the Roman Canon of the Mass in the prayer known as the Communicantes (from the first Latin word of the prayer). They are also recalled in the Litany of the Saints and in the older form of the Roman rite, in the Collect for Thursday in the Third Week of Lent, as the station church for this day is Santi Cosma e Damiano.
If so little about these saints is actually known, why do we honour them? Part of the answer can be found in tradition. When so many believers continue to honour the memory of martyrs, year after year and all over the world, there is good reason to believe that their lives were true witnesses to the Gospel. People who live and die according to their convictions and faith, give hope to the world long after their deaths. Their lives can inspire us and encourage us to be faithful during our little trials and sorrows.