Saint Simeon Stylites- The Animal Healer Saint January 5
The man we ended up knowing as saint Simeon was born in the year 390, in what is now Syria. He was the son of a humble and Christian family. Until he reached adolescence, Simeon helped his father work with the cattle. He used to always ask an old priest to explain the Scriptures to him. This priest soon realized that Simeon had a vocation for the monastic life. Hearing this, Simeon felt that his calling was to give himself totally to God.
Christians of the first centuries frequently left for deserts to live there so that they would be far from temporal vanity and so that they could be closer to God.
The Saint filled with Zeal
In his ultimate search for God and with great zeal, Saint Simeon was expelled from two of his original monasteries due to his excessive habit of Penance and self-flagellation.
In addition, his superiors believed that his behavior was influencing his other religious peers negatively.
For all these reasons, Simeon chose to live a solitary life as a hermit. For this, he went to the top of Mont Telanissa (modern-day Taladah in Syria). There, there was a community of Christians who sought isolation and prayer. Simeon spent three years there, fasting and sacrificing in almost every liturgical season, not just Lent. After that, he decided to go to the highest point of the hill.
There he built a cell of stones, without a roof and without the slightest comfort. He even made extreme sacrifices. A priest, learning of this, advised Simeon to exercise his willpower without giving in to exaggeration.
Finally, Simeon realized that this was God’s will and obeyed.
St. Simeon, however, had a vocation for solitude. Therefore, he chose to build a tall tower, like a column. He planned that the base was at the top for him to live. Whenever possible, he increased the height of the tower.
Saint Simeon lived there for twenty-seven years. Therefore, the tower reached twenty-eight meters in height. From high, he preached the Gospel to the people who sought him. With this preaching, he converted many, and several prodigies happened there through his intercession. People came to him, and he never refused his prayerful help and support to anybody.
Stylite comes from the Greek word for a column. It was on top of a column that St. Simeon spent most of his extraordinary life. After his death, the place where the column stood became the sacred place of pilgrimage for the sick and people seeking spiritual advice.
The Healer of Animals: The saint and the Snake
But once a huge terrible looking snake settled at the fencing of the column, and people began to be fear visiting the saint.
And snake continued to live very quietly near the saint – there wasn’t any reason for him creeping away.
However, once a big motto got in the snake’s eye.
The snake coiled, turned from the pain, and finally crept up to the column and let the saint know with his mere appearance that he suffered from great pain and needed his help.
St. Simeon felt sorry for the unfortunate snake.
There was so much kindness and compassion in the saint’s sight that the splinter dropped out of the snake’s eye wonderfully. The grateful snake lay at the column fencing and lay humbly as a sheep for three days. And when the eye recovered absolutely, the snakes made for his former hole, and people began to visit St. Simeon without fear, being surprised at this miracle.
Many other legends tell us that he was also obeyed as a child by a young leopard (the child thought the leopard was a cat and put a lead about its neck).
Quote about Saint Simeon
These considerations, which occur to me frequently, prompt and admiration in me for the kind of person that by nature I abhor. I mean the mystics and ascetics—the recluses of all Tibets, the Simeon Stylites of all columns. These men, albeit by absurd means, do indeed try to escape the animal law. These men, although they act madly, do indeed reject the law of life by which others wallow in the sun and for death without thinking about it. They really seek, even if on top of a column; they yearn, even if in an unlit cell; they long for what they don’t know, even if in the suffering and martyrdom they’re condemned to.
– Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet