From Riches to Rags
He appeared to be hiding out in a cave, impoverished and alone, when the French king found him. The king became his friend and frequent visitor to the cave.
His name was Giles, also known as Aegidus. Although he came from a very wealthy family of nobility in Athens, Greece, he gave his entire fortune to the poor. He fled to the diocese of Nimes in France to avoid the adulation of people in his homeland who revered him for his wisdom and piety. There he lived for several years in a cave, spending his time in prayer and meditation, and contemplating the mysteries of God. The king discovered him when his royal hunting party shot an arrow into the cave, accidentally hitting and injuring Giles in the leg.
People soon became aware of the home of Giles, and gathered around the cave of the saint, believing him to be a holy, wise man and a miracle worker. The French king decided to build a monastery there and establish Giles as the abbot of the monastery of Saint Gilles du Gard. People who flocked to Giles settled around the church and a town grew up there. He attracted many disciples who embraced his life of solitude and contemplation. In later ages they embraced the rule of Benedict and Saint Gilles du Gard became a Benedictine monastery.
Giles died in the early 700s, and his monastery and grave became a shrine and a place of pilgrimage for many. Because he himself identified with the poor and lame, they often sought his help and intercession, and he is the patron saint of the poor, the sick, cripples, and many others. Hospitals in his name were later set up in England and in Scotland, especially for easy access for those who were physically challenged.
From riches to rags … to riches in Heaven!
1. Despite access to enormous wealth, St. Giles followed the call of God to a life of poverty and active works amidst the poor which he saw as more practical and more valuable in the eyes of God.
2. Holiness and humility go hand in hand; St. Giles sincerely believed that the poor, the disabled, and even the outcasts whom he served were worthier and more important than himself.
Other Saints We Remember Today
- Twelve Holy Brothers (258), Martyrs
- St. Anna, the Prophetess (1st Century)
image: Illuminated capital from the Wallace Collection in London, photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)