Saints Cosmas and Damian are sometimes called the “doctors without silver,” or “the holy moneyless ones,” because these physician brothers refused payment for their services. Born in what is now Turkey, they refused to bow either before the god of money, or before the gods of Rome. Roman authorities under the Emperor Diocletian arrested and tortured the brothers. According to the tradition they were first hung on crosses, then stoned and then shot by arrows before soldiers beheaded them. They died around 283 AD.
Even if you don’t know the story of these saints, you’ve heard their names in the Mass.
Devotion to Cosmas and Damian is ancient and deep. They are patron of physicians and surgeons and pharmacists. Stories of healings by the brothers abound. In the painting we have chosen for this post, by Fra Angelico an early Italian Renaissance painter, the brothers are shown attaching the leg of a recently deceased Ethiopian onto the body of another patient. The ethnicity of the donor is noted because the leg is so obviously a different color from the rest of the patient’s body. It is a reminder, perhaps, of the brothers’ disinterest in wealth or class or tribe. They sought only to serve the sick in charity.
Even if you don’t know the story of these saints, you’ve heard their names in the Mass when the priest uses the first Eucharistic prayer, called the Roman Canon. In a section known as “Communicantes,” after the opening words of the prayer, “In communion,” we hear:
“In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Laurence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all your Saints: we ask through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help.”
If you, or people you know, are ill, ask Saints Cosmas and Damien to help you. For those who cannot afford medical care or the cost of necessary prescription medications, invoke the brothers’ aid. You will be joining centuries of believers who have asked these holy men to intercede for them before the throne of God, whom they served in life and in death.