The Catholic Church, which presents to us during the year so great a number of Saints, of whom some became famed on account of their apostolic zeal in converting the heathen, others for their firmness in faith, others again for their heroic patience under trials, suffering persecutions and adversity, for forsaking all temporal goods, preserving their purity unspotted, or for some other great virtues, has to-day on record, in her book of Martyrs, a Saint who, in a very peculiar manner, attained perfection and gained life everlasting. He acted the fool in order to hide his virtues, make himself despicable to the world, and thus entirely uproot in his heart the inborn pride and ambition of man. The name of this Saint was Simeon. His second name, Salus, which in Syriac means fool, was given to him for the above-mentioned cause. He was born at Edessa in Syria, of rich and zealous Catholic parents, by whose solicitude he was piously educated and instructed in several branches of learning. When nearly twenty years old, he went with one of his most intimate friends to Jerusalem to assist at the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On his return he went with the same companion into a monastery where Saint Nicon was Abbot and remained there for some time in pious seclusion. Desiring, however, to lead a still stricter life, he left the monastery with the Abbot’s permission and went with one of the brotherhood into a desert, where he found a little hut in which but lately a holy hermit had dwelt, and there he and the brother took up their abode. After having lived with great austerity in this solitude more than twenty years, he was inspired to return to the world, but to conduct himself as if he were demented, that, derided and despised by his fellow-beings, he might overcome all his secret hopes and aspirations, but, at the same time, have an opportunity to give wholesome admonitions to men. Simeon revealed this inspiration to the brother, who vainly endeavored to prevent him from so singular an undertaking: for Simeon – concluding after fervent prayer that the thought had come from God, who calls not all to heaven by one road – bade farewell to his companion and returned to Jerusalem to visit once more the holy places. Remembering on this occasion how Christ had been derided and despised during His passion, and how He of His own free will had suffered that they should thus scoff and ridicule Him, he became still more strengthened in his resolution. Not to be guided, however, entirely by his own mind, he went from Jerusalem, in the habit of a hermit, to his native place, Edessa, and there informed a deacon, renowned for his sanctity, of the thought that God had given him, and at the same time, of his intention to follow the inspiration. The pious Deacon inquired into all the circumstances and, having prayed for the counsel of the Almighty, praised Simeon’s resolution and encouraged him to fight against hell in the manner God had revealed to him. He further advised him to begin his work with trust in the aid of heaven and to continue it with unabating zeal.
Full of confidence, Simeon commenced to represent in all his actions, in his gait, way of conversing, in his look and manner, a person who has lost his reason, without, however, saying or doing any thing that could in the least offend God or give others an opportunity for so doing. Among other things, it is related of him that he found, outside the city upon a dunghill, a dead dog to which he tied a cord that he wore, and thus dragged it through the streets of the city. One may easily fancy how the children, who just left school, scoffed when they saw him. They ran after him, pelted him with mire and stones, pushed him hither and thither, drove him from one street to another, crying, “Look! this monk is crazy.” Another time, when he was considerably advanced in years, he sought the society of the children, sat down with them in the streets, built with them houses out of clay, etc. Sometimes he ascended high places and threw nuts and pebbles upon those who passed by. In one word, he feigned to be a most singular being, and was regarded as such bv the whole city. Incredible is the derision, the wrong and the disgrace which he suffered on account of it, but this was just what he was seeking, and it may safely be said that few children of the world were so eager in the pursuit of honor and esteem, as Simeon was to be derided and despised. He manifested as much joy when he saw himself scoffed at and ridiculed as others evince delight at being praised. Notwithstanding all this, however, the life he led was most austere; more than once he passed 40 days without taking any nourishment, except on Sundays and Thursdays. In the miserable hut in which he lived there was nothing but a bundle of leaves which served him as a pillow. The night he passed mostly in prayers and tears; and after making a long visit to the Church in the morning, he went to his work and to his usual practice of feigned folly. He, however, used this as a means to convert many souls; as, on account of his supposed want of reason, every door was open to him. This opportunity he improved either to exhort the people or to admonish them to repentance with the most fearful threats. God blessed the holy endeavors of His servant by aiding him to convert many. This was especially perceptible in the case of fallen women. Simeon begged money, and bringing it to the houses where he knew such persons lived, he made them a present of it; asking in return their friendship. By this means he prevented many from committing sin, and thus slowly brought them to the path of virtue.
The Almighty, who gave to this work of His servant especial grace, would also manifest to future generations that he was well pleased with this way of acting, and that He had, in truth, inspired it; for although it was most singular and unusual, yet it taught men what, with the grace of God, we are able to do in order to conquer evil inclinations. It is known that God wrought many miracles on the sick and the possessed through the merits of this Saint, but the holy man knew so well how to hide the gifts, that he was not esteemed by others on account of them. He sometimes joined the possessed, screamed as they did and acted like them in every way. The devil, that spirit of pride, could not endure the humility of the Saint, and hence left the bodies of the possessed, loudly crying that he had not a greater enemy than the fool of Edessa, who deprived him of so many souls. It is also well attested that Simeon was endowed with the gift of prophecy, and that he foretold at one time a terrible earthquake, and at another, a destroying pestilence. Besides this, the Almighty favored him with visions of angels and with revelations, and at last made known to him the hour of his death. Simeon prepared himself most carefully by partaking of the holy sacraments, and after relating to the above-mentioned pious deacon the high graces with which God had honored him, he begged him not to publish them before his death, and to come in a few days again and visit him. Two days later the deacon came to see him in his little hut, but found him dead. The body was covered with vine branches and shrubs. Every one came to see the corpse. “He died as he lived, a fool,” said the people; but when the deacon told them the life of the deceased and the reason of his feigned insanity, and when, at the same time, God wrought many miracles on the sick who touched his body, the citizens recognized with amazement how great a Saint had dwelt among them under the disguise of a fool. They further saw how divine a wisdom had been concealed under the supposed derangement of mind, and how rare, how heroic a virtue had dwelt under the lowly habit of the hermit. The Church presented him to the world as an unprecedented example of contempt of all human praise, all honor and esteem, as a most perfect conqueror of pride and self-esteem, as a zealous reformer of souls, who, although unrecognized by man while living, was yet great in the sight of the Almighty.
I. If you had lived at the time of this holy man, and had observed his actions, tell me, would you not have taken him to be a most singular, perhaps even a wicked man, as others did? and yet you would have been deceived; for, his heart was filled with heavenly wisdom, and his aim and end were not only blame less, but holy. May this teach you how guarded you ought to be in judging the actions of your neighbor, especially if you are not obliged by virtue of your calling to watch over him. Who made you a judge over your neighbor? Who gave you the power to scrutinize his actions? Leave that to the Almighty, who searches the heart and cannot err in His judgment. You, who are not able to look into the hearts of others, and see why they do this or that thing, may err and be deceived. How often have you been obliged to confess that you have been deceived in your estimation of others. Give not easily away to suspicion. If those under you are concerned, endeavor to investigate the matters thoroughly before you judge in regard to them, lay aside all suspicion, and follow the advice of Saint Bernard, who writes: “Be not an impertinent inquirer into the life and actions of others, nor a presuming judge: “that is, ask not out of curiosity how others live, or what their actions have been. Judge not their doings and habits. Do not misconstrue them. You ought to know that you commit great sin by judging rashly in matters of importance, and by misconstruing your neighbor’s actions. The surest way to avoid judging our neighbor is frequently to call to mind the words of Christ: “What is it to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21)
II. The manner in which Saint Simeon lived by inspiration of God and with the consent of another holy man, although more to be admired than imitated, contains nevertheless a lesson to the effect that you ought not to seek human praises or empty honors for the little good you are able to do. It is most certainly very absurd to be more zeal ous in the practice of good, be cause people will suppose us to be pious and praise us. God promises an eternal reward if we perform good deeds to His honor. Why then should we seek so poor a reward as human praise? May you be wise, and may the aim of all your actions be high; perform them for the honor of God, and through love of Him; this will obtain graces which the praises of men cannot impart.
As Saint Simeon Was not disturbed by the derision and ridicule of men in all that he did out of love to God, so ought you never to hesitate, if people deride or scoff at you, because you will not live like others, or be cause you decline joining in their vain, dangerous, perhaps, even sinful entertainments. Just so should you act, if your good deeds, your visits to church, your confessions, your listening to sermons, your retired life are misconstrued. Do not mind it, and do not, therefore, depart from the right road, but, on the contrary, show greater zeal to act rightly. Think and say with Saint Bernard: “I did not begin for your sake, neither for your sake shall I cease.” A time will come when your enemies will have to pay dearly for their scoffing, for he spoke the truth who said: “Judgments are prepared for the scorners.” (Prob. 19)
- Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Simeon Salus”. , 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 December 2016. Web. 20 January 2017. <>