Today, we celebrate St. Giles, Abbot. And I dedicate this small piece to a dear person, whose birthday falls on his Feast.
St. Giles is believed to have been born in Athens into an illustrious family, during the mid seventh century. He was incredibly pious and several miracles were attributed to him. He therefore attracted the attention of many, who flocked to petition this saintly man. This was extremely distasteful for the saint, who secretly left Athens by boat, seeking silent refuge in France.
There, in France, he was able to live in the obscurity that was so much to his desire. He found himself places of hermitage, first on the banks of the Rhone, then by the river Gard and finally settling himself in a forest in the diocese of Nismes, close to Toulouse. There he lived for many years, eating only the fruits of the forest, wild roots and herbs.
There is a lovely story, whereby it is traditionally believed that St. Giles befriended a hind in the forest. She became so tame with him, that he was able to drink her milk. One day, a King came hunting in the forest. In order to escape the King’s dogs, the hind ran to the cave where St. Giles resided.
In an attempt to save his dear hind from the hunter’s spears, St. Giles stood between the deer and the King’s men. In so doing, a spear, aimed at the hind, shot straight through his hand.
The King, moved by the spectacle, requested that St. Giles found a monastery right there on the very spot where the saint and his hind stood.
St. Giles responded favourably and undertook this great mission. A beautiful monastery was erected and he became Abbot, following the rule of St. Benedict. He was a strong leader, renowned for his dutiful adherence to sound doctrine and the giving of good counsel.
In the Middle Ages, the Abbey of St. Giles became a popular place of pilgrimage. Therefore, a town began to grow around it. It was thought honourable, amongst the local noblemen to carry this name from the town of St. Giles.
St. Giles is one of the Fourteen Auxiliary Saints, who are especially petitioned because of the ‘efficacy of their intercession’. As such, St. Giles is depicted, wearing his Benedictine cowl and accompanied by his dear hind. His intercession is implored for a series of ailments, including panic, epilepsy, madness and nocturnal terrors.
Let us pray today then, for those who suffer with such ailments, which seem to be on the rise in our modern over-technologicalised world.
St. Giles, pray for us.