And here is our third Holy Helper of the month, St. Pantaleon. In my missal it describes this holy martyr simply as a doctor and patron of doctors, who died in the persecution of Diocletian in the year 303. I had to do some digging to find further information and even an image for him (well, really, I got my generous older sister to do some digging for me; I’m still inexperienced and shy of doing too much perusing of the internet), and she came up with the biography which I’ve quoted below from Wikipedia (which page had a lot of references, so hopefully is trustworthy!).
“According to the martyrologies, Pantaleon was the son of a rich pagan, Eustorgius of Nicomedia, and had been instructed in Christianity by his Christian mother, Saint Eubula; however, after her death he fell away from the Christian church, while he studied medicine with a renowned physician Euphrosinos; under the patronage of Euphrosinos he became physician to the Emperor Maximian or Galerius.
“He was won back to Christianity by Saint Hermolaus (characterized as a bishop of the church at Nicomedia in the later literature), who convinced him that Christ was the better physician, signalling the significance of the exemplum of Pantaleon that faith is to be trusted over medical advice, marking the direction European medicine was to take until the 16th century.
“St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote regarding this incident:
He studied medicine with such success, that the Emperor Maximian appointed him his physician. One day as our saint was discoursing with a holy priest named Hermolaus, the latter, after praising the study of medicine, concluded thus: “But, my friend, of what use are all thy acquirements in this art, since thou art ignorant of the science of salvation?
“By miraculously healing a blind man by invoking the name of Jesus over him, Pantaleon converted his father, upon whose death he came into possession of a large fortune, but freed his slaves and, distributing his wealth among the poor, developed a great reputation in Nicomedia. Envious colleagues denounced him to the emperor during the Diocletian persecution. The emperor wished to save him and sought to persuade him to apostasy. Pantaleon, however, openly confessed his faith, and as proof that Christ is the true God, he healed a paralytic. Notwithstanding this, he was condemned to death by the emperor, who regarded the miracle as an exhibition of magic.
“According to the later hagiography, Pantaleon’s flesh was first burned with torches, whereupon Christ appeared to all in the form of Hermolaus to strengthen and heal Pantaleon. The torches were extinguished. Then a bath of molten lead was prepared; when the apparition of Christ stepped into the cauldron with him, the fire went out and the lead became cold. Pantaleon was now thrown into the sea, loaded with a great stone, which floated. He was thrown to wild beasts, but these fawned upon him and could not be forced away until he had blessed them. He was bound on the wheel, but the ropes snapped, and the wheel broke. An attempt was made to behead him, but the sword bent, and the executioners were converted to Christianity.
“Pantaleon implored Heaven to forgive them, for which reason he also received the name of Panteleimon (“mercy for everyone” or “all-compassionate”). It was not until he himself desired it that it was possible to behead him, upon which there issued forth blood and a white liquid like milk.
“St. Alphonsus wrote:
At Ravello, a city in the kingdom of Naples, there is a vial of his blood, which becomes blood every year [on his feastday], and may be seen in this state interspersed with the milk, as I, the author of this work, have seen it.
There is such a tremendous wealth hidden in the forgotten stories of saints like this! I just love discovering it, saint by saint.
So here is his novena. I’m planning to invoke this “all-compassionate” saint and patron of doctors on behalf of the sick mother of a priest I know. May you be richly blessed by the intercession of this saint who was so Christ-like he could show “mercy for everyone” even as he died.
Novena to St. Pantaleon
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that through the intercession of blessed Pantaleon, Thy Martyr, we may be delivered from all harm to the body and all uncleanness of mind. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.