Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Spiridion, Bishop

Saint Spyridon of CyprusArticle

Saint Spiridion, who was greatly celebrated for his prophecies and miracles, was born about the middle of the third century, in the island of Cyprus. When a boy, he kept his fathers sheep. In this humble occupation he remained many years, leading an innocent, pious life, and passing many hours in prayer, and in the contemplation of heavenly things. He did not associate with those of his equals who were frivolous in their sports, or not reserved in their actions. He was especially a great lover of peace and harmony, and was never heard contending with anyone, or contradicting those who were prone to strife and contention. By silence and gentleness he endeavored to prevent those evils which are the result of contention. When he perceived that persons were embittered against each other, he endeavored, in every possible manner, to reconcile them. To fulfill the wishes of his parents, he married a pious woman, who bore him two children. After this, the couple lived in continence. During the persecution under the Emperor Galerius, Spiridion was arrested as a Christian, and had his right eye put out and the sinews of his left leg severed, and was then condemned, with many others, to work in the mines. When, in the reign of Constantine the Great, he was released from this hard labor, he returned to his former occupation, and attended to his pious exercises with the same zeal as of old. At that time, God made him famous by miracles. Thieves came during the night to rob the pious shepherd; but when they wished to depart with their booty, they could not move from the place. The Saint, finding them early in the morning, reproved them, but also said a prayer that God would restore to them the use of their limbs. He then dismissed them, with the present of a lamb, in reward, as he pleasantly added, for their having so carefully watched his flock all night. At another time, a merchant had bought a certain number of goats from him, but intended to take one more than he had paid for. The goat, however, would not go with the others, but ran back immediately. The thief then took it on his shoulders, but could not carry it away. Saint Spiridion said to him: “My friend, the goat knows well that you have not paid for it, and hence will not go with you. Pay for it, and it will give you no further trouble.” The merchant did so, and the goat went quietly away with the others. These and many other miracles were soon known; and the result was that when the clergy and laity of Tremithus were to elect a new bishop, they all, inspired by God, suddenly exclaimed, that they desired no one but Spiridion as bishop. The Saint opposed this choice in his humility, but at length he had to submit to the will of God.

The Almighty, who reveals to the humble what He conceals from the knowledge of the wise, had gifted this holy shepherd with so great a wisdom, that “priests and bishops were astonished at his words. He administered his new functions most perfectly, preaching with great zeal, and visiting, comforting and instructing those under him with indefatigable love and solicitude. He strengthened them in their faith, and led them, both by word and example, in the path of Christian virtues. He exhorted them most earnestly to avoid sin, and when they had become guilty of it, to do penance. He gave the greater portion of his income to the poor. He possessed in a wonderful degree, the power of working miracles. One day, as he was going to church, he met a woman, who had a dead child in her arms. Seeing the Saint, the woman sank upon her knees, and laying the dead child at the bishop’s feet, she implored him to restore it to life. Deeply pitying the grief of the mother, he prayed, and immediately life returned into the body of the child. The mother’s joy, on beholding her child open its eyes, was so overwhelming, that she sank dead to the ground. To give to the living child a mother, the Saint, at the prayers of those present, performed a second miracle by raising the mother to life.

One of the Saint’s friends had been falsely accused and was in the greatest danger of being put to death. In this emergency he wrote to the Saint, who was far away, requesting his assistance. Spiridion set out immediately with a companion, but before long, came to a brook that was so much swollen that he could not cross it. Full of trust in God, the Saint made the sign of the holy cross over the torrent; whereupon the waters were immediately divided, so that the bishop and his companion walked over the bed of the stream with dry feet. How famous the Saint became by all these miracles may easily be imagined. He gained still greater celebrity by the following occurrence. With other bishops, he was present at the General Council of Nice, when several cunning Arians, as well as infidel philosophers, endeavored to defend their doctrines, and to contest the articles of the Catholic faith. One of these philosophers boasted excessively of his knowledge, saying that none of the bishops present could convict him of an error. Several of the prelates disputed with him, and laid his errors before him; but he always found a subterfuge, and would not acknowledge himself conquered. At length Saint Spiridion rose and said: “In the name of Christ, I beseech you to listen to me, and to hear from my lips the truth. There is only one God, one Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. There is only one Son, begotten of God the Father, who has redeemed us, etc.” Thus the holy man continued, reciting the articles of the Christian faith, without making the slightest comment on them, or giving the smallest explanation of them. Having finished, he asked: “What have you to say now? Have I spoken the truth or not? What have you to object?” The philosopher stood like a statue, unable to utter a word in his defence. At length he said: “I believe all that you have said.” “If you really believe all this, come with me into the Church, and receive holy baptism,” said Saint Spiridion. Some of those present thought that the philosopher was deriding the Saint; but when they saw that he was in earnest, they evinced their astonishment that the simple truth of Spiridion had wrought what their erudition had failed to do. The philosopher said: “My brethren, I have lost. So long as men were my opponents, I remained master; but when Divine Wisdom spoke to me through its servant, I could no longer dispute. I am convinced; God has spoken to me through His servant.” The philosopher received holy baptism, and from a persecutor of the Christian faith, he became its warm defender; from being a Saul, he became a Paul. The whole assembly of bishops gave thanks to God for so wonderful a conversion, and esteemed Saint Spiridion more highly than before. After the death of Constantine the Great, Spiridion was called to Antioch, where the Emperor Constantius was lying dangerously sick. The Saint went in his usual poor attire to the palace, where the soldier on duty, not knowing him, pushed him aside and buffeted him. The Saint, not in the least angry, presented his other cheek, which brought the rough soldier to the knowledge and regret of his fault. Admitted to the Emperor, the Saint had hardly finished a short prayer, which he recited for his health, when the Emperor arose from his bed, perfectly cured. He offered a large sum of money to the Saint, as a sign of his gratitude, but the bishop refused to receive it, giving him, in return, many wholesome admonitions. The Emperor promised to follow them, and compelled the Saint to receive at least a portion of the offered money, which, however, immediately on leaving the palace, the holy man divided among the poor, and returned to his bishopric, where, before his end, he performed several other miracles. His prayers obtained rain from God when the island of Cyprus was ravaged by famine, in consequence of a long-continued drought. At last, the Almighty was pleased to call this great Thaumaturgus, by a calm and happy death, to His eternal kingdom. Many and great miracles continued to be wrought for many years at his tomb.

Practical Considerations

• You must have remarked that, from the beginning of his life, Saint Spiridion loved peace, avoided contention, and endeavored to reconcile those who were embittered against each other. Imitate him in this. Christ several times wished peace to His disciples, because He desires His followers to live peacefully together. Love and peace He gave as a distinguishing mark to His disciples. If you therefore wish to belong to the disciples of Christ, love peace and harmony. Guard yourself against making disturbance by gossip, or in other way. Should you perceive that others wish to quarrel with you, restrain yourself; leave, or be silent. Oh! how many sins you will thus be able to prevent. If you have an opportunity to make peace between persons at variance, do not neglect it. Christ has said: “Blessed are the peacemakers;” and His adding that “they shall be called the children of God,” leaves us to conclude what they must be who disturb peace, and arouse strife and contention. Saint Gregory writes on this subject: “Those who occasion strife and contention ought to know what is written: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” When those who make peace are called children of God, we must surely look upon those who disturb peace and cause strife and contention, as children of the devil. Saint Vincent Ferrer writes: “If they are blessed who love peace, they that disturb it must be cursed.” Now, where do the cursed belong? where the children of Satan? Children belong to their parents; hence the peacemaker to God; the peace-disturber to the devil. The blessed, the chosen, belong to heaven; the reprobate, the cursed, to hell.

• Saint Spiridion commended nothing oftener nor more earnestly to those under his charge than to avoid sin; or, if they had been guilty of it, to do penance. These two important points I have several times during the year advised you to observe. Today I repeat it. If it be your earnest desire to be saved, avoid sin; for this alone can close the gates of heaven against you, and cast you into hell. Should you, however, have fallen into sin, I beseech you, for the sake of your own salvation, do not remain in it, but endeavor to cleanse yourself by true repentance. Ask God, before you lie down to-night, to forgive you your iniquities, and atone for them by a contrite confession. Do not postpone your penance from day to day, from week *to week, from month to month, from year to year, still less until your old age, or until you are sick, perhaps, even dying; for this manner of acting is very displeasing to God and very dangerous to you. How would you like your servant to say to you: “As long as I am young and strong and active, I will serve your enemies; but when I become old, feeble and infirm, I will be faithful to you.” This would be more than displeasing to you, would it not? How then do you dare to act in the same manner towards your God? As long as you remain in sin, you serve Satan, the enemy of the Almighty; and when you will have served him long enough, you intend to enter into the service of the Most High. How great an injury to God! How terrible a contempt for His high Majesty! and how dangerous to yourself! For, tell me, are there not a hundred, nay, a thousand chances that you will die before the time comes that you have appointed for your penance? Should you die without penance, you know that nothing is surer for you than hell. As long, therefore, as you continue in your sins, so long are you in evident danger of going to eternal ruin. And is it possible that you do not tremble merely to think of such danger? But let us suppose that you do not die, and that you make a confession in the last hour of your life; are you sure that you will escape hell in such a manner? Saint Salvian feared the contrary, as in such a confession it is hard to find true repentance. He who postpones his penance voluntarily until his last hour, will continue to sin as long as he can. He will not cease to do evil through a desire to reform, but because he can sin no longer. He leaves not sin, but sin leaves him.

I ask, what kind of contrition can such a person experience? what resolutions can he make? And to what use is confession without true repentance, and without an earnest resolution of amendment? “He that does penance while he has the power or the means to sin, has reasonable hope to gain life everlasting when he dies. But whoever lives in sin and does no penance till his last hour has arrived, can hardly expect that his sins will be forgiven, and that he will be admitted into the presence of the Lord. Those, therefore, who desire to die happily must do penance while they are in health.” Thus speaks Saint Bernard. Heed this lesson. Not to do penance until the last hour of life, is a dangerous thing. Do it now without loss of time. Do not even postpone it until tomorrow, because it is uncertain whether you will live until then. “Should I offer you money, you would not say, ‘I will come tomorrow,’ but you would receive it immediately. God offers you the pardon of your sins; why do you not hasten to receive it?” says Saint Ambrose. In conclusion, listen to the admonition of Saint Paul:

“Let not sin remain in your mortal body.” (Romans 6) Ponder it well: “in your mortal body.” You are mortal; you may die in your sin; hence, do not allow it to rest upon your conscience but do penance.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Spiridion, Bishop”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 22 February 2019. <>