October 24, 2014

Saint Senoch of Tours the Healer

St. Senoch the Healer (Feast Day - October 24)

By St. Gregory of Tours

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Is it true that everything which is done in the world is vanity? Because of this it happens that the saints of God, who are burned by no ardour of passions, who are pricked by no goad of concupiscence, who are not polluted by the filth of lust, and who are not even brought down, so to speak, in their thoughts, are nevertheless carried away by the wiles of the Tempter, regarding themselves as perfectly just and in consequence being swollen by the pride of an arrogant presumption. Thus those whom the sword of great crimes has not been able to slay have been easily ruined by the light smoke of vanity. This happened to the man of whom we are going to speak, who, although he shone by many virtues, would certainly have fallen headlong into the abyss of arrogance if he had not been restrained by the careful exhortations of his faithful brothers.

1. The blessed Senoch (+ 24 October 576), a Taifal by birth, was born in the region of Poitou called Theifalia and, having turned towards the Lord, he became a cleric and established a monastery. He found in the territory of Tours old walls, and by restoring them from ruins he made worthy dwellings. He also found an oratory in which, it is said, our illustrious St Martin had prayed. He restored it with much care, and having placed an altar inside which had a small compartment suitable for containing relics, he invited the bishop to come to bless it. The blessed Bishop Euphronius came, and when he had blessed the altar he bestowed on Senoch the honour of the diaconate. They then celebrated Liturgy. But when they wanted to place the casket of relics in the hollow prepared for it they found that the casket was too large and would not go in. Then the deacon fell down and began to pray with the bishop himself, weeping, and he obtained what he asked for. What a marvellous thing! The place which had been too small was enlarged by divine power, and the casket itself grew smaller, so that it entered very easily, to the great amazement of those who were present. Senoch assembled three monks in this place, and served the Lord assiduously. To begin with he walked in the narrow path of life, taking very little food and drinking very little. At the time of holy Lent his abstinence was increased by a diminution of food, for he ate only some barley bread and drank only water, taking just one pound of each of these substances each day. And he was happy in the severity of winter to put no covering on his feet, and he used to attach iron chains to his neck, feet and hands. Then he withdrew from the sight of his brothers to lead a solitary life. He enclosed himself in a cell, praying constantly, passing the days and nights in prayers and vigils, without any pause. The faithful, in their devotion, often brought him money, but instead of hiding it in the ground he put it into the purses of the poor, for he often recalled the words of the Lord, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth", for "where your treasure is there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6: 19,21). He gave away what he received, for God's sake, in order to relieve the various necessities of the poor. And as a result during his life he delivered from the bonds of servitude and from the burden of debts more than two hundred wretched people.

2. When we arrived in the diocese of Tours he left his cell and came to see us; having greeted us and kissed us he returned home. He had, as we have said, great abstinence, and he cured the sick. But just as his sanctity came from his abstinence, so vanity began to emerge slowly from his sanctity. For he left his cell and went with arrogant pride to visit his family in that area of Poitou which we have mentioned. And on his return he was swollen with pride and sought only to please himself. But when he had been criticised by us and when he had recognised that the proud are far from the kingdom of God, he purged himself entirely of his vanity and made himself so humble that there remained in him not the smallest trace of pride. And he confessed, saying "I now recognise the truth of the words spoken by the sacred mouth of the Apostle, 'He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord'" (I Corinth. 1:31). But as the Lord worked many miracles of healing through him, and as he said that he wished to enclose himself so that he would no longer see the human face, we advised him not to constrain himself by such seclusion, except only during the days which come between the death of St Martin and the celebration of Christmas, or during those other forty days preceding the feast of Easter, which the authority of the Fathers ordains us to spend in great abstinence. During the rest of the year he ought to put himself at the disposal of the sick. He listened to our advice, received our words willingly, and obeyed them without hesitation.

3. Finally, having said something of the life of this Saint, let us now come to the miracles which it pleased the curing hand of the Almighty to accomplish through him. A blind man called Popusitus came to find him (at this time he had already been ordained as priest) and asked him for something to eat. But his eyes were touched by the hand of the holy priest with the sign of the cross, and he deserved to receive the healing sign, for he immediately recovered his sight.

Another boy from Poitou, with the same trouble, heard people talk about what his confessor had done, and begged him to restore the light he had lost. Without delay he invoked the name of Christ, and made the sign of the cross over the eyes of the blind boy. Immediately blood flowed out in a stream, and light entered, and after twenty years the torch of day lit the two extinguished stars on the face of this wretched person. Two boys crippled in all their limbs and twisted up like round balls were brought into the presence of the saint. When he had touched them with his hands their limbs straightened, and in the space of an hour he delivered both of them. Thus he doubled his good work by a double miracle. A boy and girl were also presented, who had their hands all contracted. It was in the midst of the Easter celebrations. They begged the servant of God to remove their affliction, but he delayed doing what they asked, because of the great crowd of people who had come to the church, and he said aloud that he was not worthy that God should bestow such benefits on the sick through him. But in the end he ceded to the prayers of all, took the hands of these two in his own, and when he had touched them their fingers straightened, and he sent both of them away cured. Likewise a woman called Benaia, who came with her eyes closed and went away with her eyes open, after he had touched them with his healing hand. I do not think I ought to be silent about how often, by his words, he obtained that the venom of serpents should do no evil. Indeed, two people swollen up after having been bitten by a snake came and fell at his feet, praying that he should chase away by his power the venom that the tooth of this wicked beast had spread through their bodies, threatening them with death. The saint prayed to the Lord, saying "Lord Jesus Christ, who, at the beginning, created everything in this world, and who has ordained that the serpent, envious of men, should live under a curse, expel the evil of his venom out of your servants, so that they may triumph over the serpent and not he over them." Having said these words he stroked all parts of their bodies, and soon the swelling went down and the murderous venom lost its strength to harm.

The day of our Lord's resurrection had come. A man was going to church and saw a herd of animals ruining his crops. He groaned, and says: "Woe on me, for the work of my whole year is being wasted and nothing will remain." And he took an axe and began to cut branches to block the opening in the hedge. Immediately, of its own accord, his hand gripped itself so that it could not release what it had grasped. In great pain, the man ran to find the holy confessor, dragging behind him the branch that his hand had seized, and told him just what had happened. Then he rubbed holy oil on the man's hand, and pulled out the branch, and cured him.

After that he cured many people of the bite of serpents and the poison of malignant pustules, by making the sign of the cross over them. Others, tormented by the hatred of the savage demon, recovered their full senses as soon as he had laid his hands on them, chasing the demons away. And to all those whom the hand of God cured from various diseases through him he cheerfully gave in addition food and clothing if they were in need. He took so much care of those in need that he diligently built bridges across rivers, so that no-one would fear cruel drowning during the seasons of floods.

4. This holy man was thus made illustrious in the world by such miracles. Having attained the age of about forty years he was taken by a small fever which kept him in bed for about three days. Someone then announced to me that his end was near. I hurried to his bedside, but I was not able to get any word out of him, for he was very weak, and after about an hour he gave up the spirit.

To his funeral came that crowd of people whom he had ransomed, that is to say, those whom we have mentioned whom he freed from either servitude or debt, and those whom he had nourished or clothed. They mourned, saying: "To whom do you leave us, holy father?"

Later, when he was lying in his grave, he often manifested himself by evident miracles. The thirtieth day after his death, when Liturgy was being celebrated at his tomb, a paralyzed man called Chaidulf, who had come to ask for alms, recovered the use of his limbs as soon as he had kissed the cloth which covered the tomb. I have known many other miracles which happened in this place, but I think that these things are enough to recall his memory.

Source: From the book Life of the Fathers. Footnotes to the text included in the source link.