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Eleventh-century Unmercenary Doctor who Healed in God’s Name

Saint Agapetus, an Unmercenary Doctor of the Body and Soul

Saint Agapetus

Saint Agapetus of the Caves was an unmercenary doctor born in Kiev in the eleventh century. On June 14, we commemorate him as a healer of both the body and the soul who guides the erring and evil-hearted to virtue. As we invoke his name today, we pray for the healing of our physical and spiritual ailments.

He was a novice and disciple of Saint Anthony of the Caves at the Kiev Caves Monastery. The Lord bestowed on him the gift of healing, and he mostly practised among his monastic brethren, giving them boiled herbs that he prepared himself. However, he never turned away laypeople who approached him. As an unmercenary, he never expected anything in return and sought no worldly fame.

According to tradition, he cured Vladimir Monomach, prince of Chernigov, who eventually ascended to the throne in Kiev. The saint sent him a potion from boiled herbs, which the prince took and recovered. Prince Vladimir Monomach went to the Kiev Caves monastery in person to meet the healer through whom the Lord restored him to health. He had never met the saint before and intended to express his gratitude with a gift. But Agapetus, seeking to escape worldly notoriety, hid in his cell, and the Prince delivered the treasures he had brought for him to the hegumen. He then dispatched a messenger with presents for Agapetus, who turned them down once more. The prince's messenger persuaded Agapetus to take the presents, which he did out of humility, only to leave them at the monastery gate later. When the messenger saw the presents outside, he left them with the hegumen. When he got back to the prince, he told him about the event. In admiration for Agapetus, a faithful servant of God, Prince Vladimir gave generously and distributed a large portion of his estate to the needy.

A secular doctor, an Armenian, was also practising medicine in Kiev. He was an good at identifying ailments based on symptoms and could even forecast how long a patient would survive. His conclusions were evidence-based, but they were not error-free. One day, while treating a patient, he warned him to expect to die within a few days. The sufferer went to Saint Agapetus as a final resort and was healed. The saint fed him some food from the Kiev Caves dining area and prayed fervently for his healing. The patient recovered. Jealousy drove the Armenian doctor to poison the saint. He was able to give him the poison, but through the saint's prayers, the Lord made it ineffective.

The unmercenary doctor grew unwell after many labours and God-pleasing works. When the Armenian doctor learned of his condition, he came to see Agapetus in his cell and engaged in a discussion about the art of medicine and the various treatments for his ailment. "The Lord Himself will provide a cure for the infirmities of the soul and body," the holy elder said. The Armenian interpreted this to suggest that Agapetus knew nothing about the science of medicine. He took Agapetus' hand in his and said, "Truly, I tell you, you will die on the third day." However, if my forecast is incorrect, I will alter my life and become a monk like you."

"Is this your way of healing - telling people about death, not about the cure?" the saint said, in righteous anger. "Give me life if you are skilled at your craft! But, if you don't have such power, why are you bothering me by predicting my death in three days? The Lord has told me that He will summon me in three months." He was already looking frail at that point. The Armenian objected once more: "Look at yourself! People in your situation have no more than three days to survive!"

A bedridden patient was then taken into his Agapetus' cell. Agapetus administered some boiling herbs to the patient, who miraculously recovered. "Here is the potion I used to cure him," the saint continued, offering some to the Armenian. The Armenian, however, refused, admitting to being of a different faith.

Monk Agapetus lived for three months before dying in 1095. When the saint died, the Armenian doctor accepted Agapetus as a saint of God. He kept his promise. He travelled to the Kiev Caves, repented of his sins errors, and became a monk. Agapetus' soul was cleansed, and he found his way to salvation.

The saint's remains are kept at the Kiev Caves Lavra. He is shown in icons holding a bundle of plants in one hand and a flask of potion in the other. During his lifetime, he healed everyone, regardless of status or position, ancestry or nobility. To this day, he has continued to cure the souls of those who call on him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

June 14, 2023
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