Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Aegidius or Giles, Abbot and Hermit

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Giles, date and artist unknown; Church of Saint Silyn, Wrecsam, Wales; photographed on 17 February 2017 by Llywelyn2000; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Athens, the Capital of Greece, was the birthplace of Saint Aegidius. His parents, Theodore and Pelagia, were of high rank and wealthy, but they were still more distinguished for their virtue and piety. Hence, their first care was, not to leave great riches to their son, but to lead him in the path of rectitude by their example and instruction. Aegidius followed the wishes of his parents in all things, and already in his youth evinced a magnanimous contempt for the world and all that is temporal, and a most generous love for the poor and unfortunate, whom he endeavored to assist in every possible way. Af- ter the early death of his parents, the pious youth gave the whole of his inheritance to the poor, with the intention of serving God in voluntary poverty, and aspiring only to heavenly treasures. This heroic deed God rewarded with still greater favors than the former, and with the continual gift of miracles. A man possessed by the evil spirit, one day disturbed the congregation in Church by terrific howls. Aegidius went up to him and commanded the devil, in the name of Jesus Christ, to be silent and leave the man; and he was immediately obeyed. At another time, a poisonous serpent had wound itself around a man and mortally wounded him. The Saint commanded the reptile to depart, and healed the man who was already in his last agony. These miraculous events brought upon Aegidius so much honor and esteem, that he resolved to leave his home and seek a place where, unknown and without fear of receiving empty honors, he might serve the Almighty. He therefore, went on board a ship which was going to France. During the voyage, a terrible storm arose, which threatened destruction to all. Scarcely, however, had Aegidius raised his hands to the Almighty, when the sea became calm, and all signs of danger disappeared. When the ship arrived in France, the Saint went to Arles, to the holy Archbishop Caesarius, and requested to be led by him in the path of spiritual perfection. Two years were thus spent by him; but after this time, he again secretly went away, desiring to escape earthly praise; for, the gift he possessed of working miracles procured for him everywhere the greatest veneration, which to him was unendurable. Crossing a river, he came to an old hermit, with whom he lived for a time a most quiet, holy life; but here also he soon became known for the many miracles he wrought on the sick; and the great honors paid him drove him away once more. In a dark forest to which he fled, he found, after long wandering, a cavern in a rock, which he chose as a dwelling. The ground about it produced nothing but wild herbs and roots, which became his only sustenance. As notwithstanding this, he was determined to remain there and to serve God in deep solitude, the Almighty provided for His servant by a miracle. He sent him, daily at a certain hour, a hind which nourished him with her milk. The Saint, humbly thanking heaven for this grace, found in it a new motive to serve the Lord with still greater zeal. He led a life more angelic than human, occupying his time in prayer, praising God, and pious meditations.

Some years later the King of France was hunting in the same forest where Saint Aegidius dwelt. The dogs, having pursued the hind, which fed the Saint with her milk, to the cavern, barked loudly at its entrance, until a huntsman, who had followed them, shot an arrow into the cave, with the intention of driving the animal out of it. But instead of doing so, he wounded the holy man, who received the shot without uttering the slightest complaint. The hunters, forcing their way into the cavern, found him covered with blood, and the hind lying at his feet The King, to whom the whole was reported, came to beg the hermit’s pardon, and ordered his wounds to be bandaged and all possible care to be taken of his health. He wished to bestow upon him a royal gift, but the Saint refused to accept his offers. Before leaving, the King asked if there was nothing he could do for him; to which the Saint answered that if the King wished really to confer a favor on him, he would erect a monastery on the place where they were standing, wherein the ancient discipline of the Egyptian hermits should be observed. The King promised to build the monastery and kept his royal word

Hardly was the monastery finished, when a great many desired to be admitted into it, in order to serve God in solitude and with the greatest perfection. Saint Aegidius became their Abbot, and how solicitous he was for their spiritual welfare may be concluded from the eminent degree of holiness at which he arrived. He was in every virtue a model to those under him and animated them to follow his example. The miracles which he again wrought made him famous far and near. The greatest of these was the conversion of the King, for whom Saint Asgidius had obtained from God by his prayers, so efficacious a grace, that he confessed his great iniquities and did penance until his death.

At length, the Saint, full of merits, left this world on the first of September, towards the end of the sixth century, after he had lived many years in great holiness, had converted many hardened sinners and worked for the salvation of men and the honor of the Almighty. The many miracles which took place at his tomb, gathered there, in a short time, so great a number of people, that a considerable town was built which, to this day, bears the name of the holy Abbot and hermit, Aegidius.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Aegidius fled from one place to another, to escape from the praises of men. Most persons act very differently. They seek empty honor, and vain praises, by the little good they do. Thus, in ancient times, acted the Scribes and Pharisees; this was the moving power of their prayers, fasts and alms-giving. “They do aii rheir deeds that they may be honored by men,’* says Christ. But what benefit did they derive from it? The Saviour says: “They have received their reward.” (Matthew 6) This reward was the empty praise of men. They could have gained, by their good deeds, an eternal reward in heaven, if they had done them rightly, and out of love for God; but as they sought human praise, they received it as their reward in this world, without the hope of anything further in heaven. Do not follow their example. If you do kind or good deeds, as is your duty, do them not with the intention of being praised by men, but to glorify the Almighty; do them for love of Him. What avails all human praise? You can obtain so great a reward for your works in heaven; why then do you endeavor to obtain so miserable a one on earth? Where is the servant who would be satisfied with small wages when he is offered more? Hence every morning, begin the day with the intention that you will do and suffer for the honor of God all that is to be done and suffered. Renew this intention during the day, and say:

“All for the glory of my God: “or “Lord, for love of Thee!” In this manner, you will obtain for all your works, ah eternal reward in heaven. Take heed, however, that you have this intention not only for those works which in themselves are good, as for instance, prayer, visits to the Churches, etc., but also, for those, which are in themselves neither bad nor good, as the labors which you perform according to your station in life, eating, drinking, sleeping, enduring heat or cold, etc. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10)

• How miraculously was Saint Aegidius nourished and preserved in the desert by the Almighty! In times long gone by, God fed the prophet Elias by a raven; and in the time of the New Covenant, He nourished Aegidius by a hind. Thus does God deal with His faithful servants. Rather than abandon them, he works a miracle. If you desire of God your temporal sustenance, serve him faithfully, and labor according to your station in life, and He will surely give you all that is beneficial to you. An excessive care for temporal goods, and an immoderate grief in adversity are signs of very little trust in God. They are displeasing to the Almighty, and more hurtful to us than we are willing to believe. Hence, when Christ gave to those, who were too solicitous for their temporal welfare the parable of the lily and the sparrow, both of which are clothed and fed by the Almighty, He exhorted them not to be solicitous, but to seek, before all things, the Kingdom of God, with the promise that, with it, they should receive all else they needed. If you believe in this promise of the Lord, divest yourself of all immoderate care and sadness. Seek first the kingdom of heaven, endeavor earnestly to serve your God, work to the best of your ability and place your trust in Providence. “Cast thy care upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” (Psalm 54)

In regard to what I have said of the pious parents of Aegidius, I will add another instruction. Their principal care was, not to leave to their son great treasures and riches, but to lead him in the path of salvation. Oh, how happy was Aegidius to possess such parents, and how pleasing was their conduct in the sight of the Lord! There are parents who are anxious only to leave their children temporal goods, and they amass these in every possible manner, even by fraud, theft, injustice and other sinful means. With this end in view, they will not indemnify those whom they have wronged, on the plea that they must not leave their children in poverty. What blindness! What a deceit of Satan! It is true that parents are obliged to endeavor, according to their station, to save something for their children, which they may leave them after their death. Love for their children requires this, and parents commit great sin who neglect to do so. But to accumulate riches in an unjust manner in order to leave them to children, is unlawful, neither is it true love. It is not lawful, as one breaks the seventh commandment by obtaining wealth in such a manner. It is not true love, as it does not benefit the children, but harms them; for, the curse of the Almighty rests upon riches unjustly acquired, which, therefore, cannot bring happiness to their possessors. If, notwithstanding all this, you will still call it love, it must be a disorderly, foolish, and wicked love; since such parents love their children more than God, as they offend Him for their children’s sake and make themselves unhappy for all eternity, in order to give their children a short worldly prosperity. And who can tell if this dishonestly acquired wealth may not cause the children to lose heaven? Will such children thank their parents in hell for the false love that prompted the accumulation of riches for them by unjust means? If parents wish to show true love to their children, they should leave them only what they have justly obtained, though it be ever so little, and, with it, the blessing of God. For, as the Psalmist says: “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked.” (Psalm 36) The first care of parents should be to procure spiritual riches for their children. How this may be done, Saint Salvian teaches. He exhorts in the words of Saint Paul: “Bring up your children in the doctrines and fear of the Lord,” and adds: “Attend well, ye parents, to the possessions which you should procure for your children: good instruction, the fear of God, virtue and piety. These are possessions that will truly enrich your children and give them happiness. Unjust riches give to the children but a short enjoyment, and bring upon both parents and children, eternal misery. How senseless it is,” he continues, “to rob yourselves of the heavenly inheritance, in order to leave to your children one which is only temporal!” You will make your children rich, and thereby reduce your selves and them to eternal beggary. It is right that you should love your children; but love them not more than your own soul, not more than God. If you endeavor to educate your children piously, as the parents of Saint Aegidius did, they will be rich and happy; and for such love they will thank you in heaven. But for a false love they will curse you through all eternity.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Aegidius or Giles, Abbot and Hermit”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 April 2018. Web. 25 September 2018. <>