March 9, 2022

Saint Vitalis of Castronovo in Sicily (+ 994)

St. Vitalis of Castronovo (Feast Day - March 9)

Our Venerable Father Vitalis was born in Castronovo of Sicily, to pious Christian parents Sergio and Chrysoniki. He became a monk in the famous Monastery of Saint Philip in Agira at the foot of Mount Etna, where he remained for five years. He decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome. During the journey, near Terracina (in Campania), a poisonous snake bit him, but he miraculously managed to save himself by making the sign of the cross on the wound. On his return he remained to Calabria, in the area of Santa Severina, where he lived as a hermit for two years. He returned to Sicily and lived as a monastic for twelve years in a monastery near that of Saint Philip.

He then returned to Calabria and chose a form of monastic life in which he was a wanderer, going from one region to another. In the Lipirachi Mountains he met the strict ascetic Saint Anthony, who gave him much spiritual advice about the monastic life. At the Ionian coast in Petra Roseti on the border with Lucania, he managed to turn a cave of thieves into a monastery. He continued his travels on Mount Mercurius and Latinianon, founding new monasteries, and supporting the monks spiritually during those difficult years. He also visited the areas of Mount Rapparo, Sant'Angelo d'Asprono, Mount San Giuliano.

To avoid the crowds of people around him, due to the fame of his holiness, he retired to a cave on Mount Torri, where he lived alone with the beasts and miraculously made a spring run with holy water. In this cave he also received the visit of Saint Luke of Demenna. Then, together with the hermits Hilario of Galaso and Leontio of Petra, he visited the governor in Bari, who had asked to see him due to the fame of his holiness. He gave him many sacred utensils and icons, which he brought to the Monastery of Saints Andrian and Natalia, which he rebuilt after its desolation by the Arabs.

In a raid by the Arabs, he was arrested, tortured and imprisoned. When one of the Muslims was about to kill him he was struck by lightning, which made his scimitar fall and he collapsed as a victim of sudden suffering. Saint Vitalis made sure that his attacker recovered, and by admonishing them, the attackers withdrew from those lands.

When he managed to free himself, he returned to the area of Torri where he accepted as a submissive his nephew, Elias, who came to find him from Sicily and together they went to Rapolla where they founded a monastery. There he finally rested from the hardships of his hectic life in old age, on March 9, 994.

Thirty years after his death, his body was transferred, by his nephew Elias, to the monastery he founded in Guardia Perticara. Shortly afterwards, Bishop John of Torri transferred his body to Torri for greater safety.
Later, the relics of the Saint were transferred to Armento and finally to the Cathedral of Tricarico. His life was written in Greek by a monk who had met the Saint - while alive - fifty years after his death. It was translated into Latin in 1194.