July 1, 2017

Holy Martyr Potitus of Sardinia

St. Potitus of Sardinia (Feast Day - July 1)

The Holy Martyr Potitus was born in Sardinia and lived during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161). Having become familiar with the Christian teaching, the young Potitus believed in the true God and accepted holy Baptism at around thirteen years of age. When he learned of this, his pagan father Hylas was extremely upset and tried, first by entreaties and then by threats, to dissuade his son from his faith in Christ the Savior, but his efforts were in vain. As a punishment, he locked Potitus up in a room of the house without food or drink. The next day a conversation took place between Hylas and Potitus about the truth of the Christian faith and the error of idolatry. Impressed by the boy’s firmness of faith, the father also came to believe in the Son of God and became a Christian himself.

Potitus then traveled to the mountains of Epirus, where he had many visions and faced many temptations of the devil. There an angel of the Lord appeared to him, and informed him that he would suffer martyrdom for the faith. He also instructed Potitus to avoid vice, and warned him that he would suffer from many temptations and the delusions of demons.

One day a demon appeared in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ, beautiful and venerable, and at first Potitus thought it may indeed be the Lord. But then out of humility he remembered his own wretchedness, and thought why would the Lord would appear to him. The demon in the form of the Lord told Potitus to relax his austerities and go back to his father's house, where there was plenty of food and water. Potitus responded by asking the spirit to pray with him, and he noticed that one of the feet of the spirit was of a peculiar shape and did not touch the ground. Then he remembered the warning of the angel, and horrified he prayed to God for strength. Immediately the devil changed his appearance, and took on a gigantic stature, with a horrible head. Potitus took courage and breathed on the creature, saying: "Be gone, Satan, for it is written you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve." The devil then took the form of an enormous bull bellowing like thunder, and tried to frighten the youth from his cave. But when he made the sign of the Cross, the bull writhed in pain and cried out: "O Potitus, send me away! Why torture me with that sign? Oh, how I burn!" Potitus then made the devil swear to never harm another Christian, and with the devil's consent Potitus set him free, but the devil then went and took possession of the pagan daughter of the emperor.

From Epirus Potitus then left for Valeria in Sardinia. Hungry and weary, he sat in the Forum and saw the beautiful and magnificent city enveloped in a cloud of darkness due to its idolatry. He became determined to remove this cloud that hung over the city, by using the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to work miracles of healing so that many would come to believe in the Lord.

In Valeria there lived the illustrious woman Kyriaki, the wife of a senator; she was afflicted with leprosy. When Potitus heard from her husband of her affliction, he asked if he could heal her. The Saint presented himself to her and declared that if she believed in Christ, she would be healed. The woman accepted holy Baptism and was immediately made well. Seeing such a miracle, her husband and all their household believed in Christ and were baptized as well. In fact, his biography tells us that this miracle alone was the cause for the conversion of half of the city.

After this, the Saint left Valeria due to his growing fame, and settled on Mount Gargano in the province of Foggia and lived in solitude among the animals. He was found there by servants of the emperor Antoninus, whose daughter Agnes was possessed by a demon. The evil spirit so tortured her that she became an object of terror to all her household. She would let out the most terrible screams, at table she would be raised up by the hair as if by an invisible hand and let go so that she would violently fall, and she would dash to pieces every ornament of the palace. In vain the emperor offered sacrifices to Jupiter on her behalf, for this made the devil through Agnes laugh and he gloried in the sacrifices the emperor offered him. Through the lips of the maiden, the devil said that he would come out of her only if Potitus should come, and she revealed where he could be found. Antoninus ascribed this as a revelation from the gods, so he sent for the young Potitus, thinking he was a magician. They brought the holy youth to the emperor, and when he saw it was merely a young boy of thirteen or fourteen, and when he found out he was a Christian, he was disturbed but also desperate to have his daughter healed. Agnes was presented to Potitus, and she came out looking like a skeleton, with bloodshot and wild eyes, yet so weak that she could hardly stand. Seeing Potitus, she trembled and screamed: "It is Potitus!" The youth approached her, prayed, commanded the spirit to depart from the girl, then breathed on her. Immediately Agnes was thrown to the floor as if dead, and the entire palace trembled. Then everyone noticed a horrible creature, like a dragon, fly out the window. The room was filled with a stench of fire and brimstone. The young beauty of Agnes then returned to her and she fully revived.

But instead of being grateful, the emperor treated the Saint with inhuman cruelty. The emperor wanted to ascribe the miracle to the false gods he worshiped, but Potitus insisted it was through the power of Jesus Christ alone. For his firm confession of faith in Christ the Savior, and for his refusal to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, to whom the emperor imputed the healing of his daughter, he ordered that the Saint be tortured.

First Potitus was stripped and beaten with heavy sticks. Then, after Potitus broke to pieces a statue of Apollo with only the words of prayer from his lips, he was taken to the Roman Coliseum and presented before the emperor half stripped and chained. Then he was tortured on the wheel, the emperor hoping to sever every bone on the young boy's body. But Potitus endured all his tortures with joy, and this astounded the people. Then wild beasts were set loose upon him, but they only gathered around him and licked his feet. Four gladiators were then released to slay him, but an angel of the Lord prevented them from striking him. Wearied of trying, they gave up.

Then was prepared an fearsome torture never before seen: a pair of pincers with two large spikes, which were intended to pass through the head and meet in the brain, so that there was no possibility of living after this torture. The people fell silent when they beheld this instrument of torture, but Potitus freely offered his head to the executioners. As the instrument was applied to his head, the boy prayed and it was invisibly removed and placed on the head of the emperor. The emperor screamed with pain and asked Potitus to free him. Agnes then went and fell at the feet of Potitus and asked that she be baptized. Potitus then asked for some water and had Agnes baptized before all the people of the Coliseum. As soon as she was baptized, the terrible spikes fell from the head of the emperor. Then at the wishes of blessed Potitus, the emperor had him beheaded. Two thousand people were converted to Christianity that day, after beholding the most extraordinary things they had ever seen.

It is unknown where Potitus was buried. In the eleventh century, however, his holy relics were discovered underneath an old church in Sardinia. Although the sarcophagus had no name to identify the relics, beside his body was laid the instrument by which he was tortured in the Coliseum of Rome, that miraculously transferred to the head of the emperor. Since there was no other martyr from Sardinia tortured this way, it was assumed to be the relics of Saint Potitus. Besides, there was an old tradition that he had been buried beneath this church. This discovery confirmed for many the martyric struggles of the Saint.

As for Agnes, she remained a faithful Christian, but did not die the death of a martyr. For Antoninus saw something supernatural about his daughter, and he was in awe of her and revered her. She remained unsullied by all the luxury and vanity of the pagan court, and was allowed to freely practice her Christian faith. A few years after her healing she reposed in peace, in the imperial palace.


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The young Potitus, the parent asked:
When your Faith is so true,
Would you for it give your life?
Potitus replied: The Savior promised,
To gird all of His faithful with strength,
That for Him one could easily suffer;
In that I hope, even I, and I believe much,
That I could suffer for my Christ.
Father, my God is great and glorious,
Miraculous and mighty, living and life giving.
He, the young David, helped in battle
That he decapitated the head of the terrible Goliath;
With me on the path of suffering, He will be
So that the dark and bitter death, I can endure.
When Hylas, the father, heard from his son,
As though, of divine wine, he drank,
And aloud cried out: where are my years!
Behold, from a child, truth I learned!
Baptism he received and was numbered among the faithful.
And in blood, the martyr Potitus was baptized.