Jan 11th - Vitalis of Gaza
Here is a saint you do not hear much about and a story which might be surprising.
Vitalis moved to Alexandria in Egypt to minister to the prostitutes of the city. His method was certainly unusual. He worked a day job and then would take the money and pay a woman for their time, taking care of their material need, but would just ask them to not sin that night and with the stipulation that they could tell no one what he was doing - I imagine first to let him continue in this ministry without angering anyone against him or the women and second to allow him to truly minister to them without confusing the purpose. You can imagine how that must have caught them off-guard but also the rumors and the scandal that arose! According to some biographers, he met with every prostitute in the city leading many away from the life and helping them to overcome the situations that had driven them to it.
But what is important to me is that like Jesus, he met them where they were at, met the immediate need that put them into that life, and then called them to freedom in Christ. And like Jesus that sparked some serious controversy.
He was eventually killed by a pimp for interfering with his business - which also sounds vaguely familiar even centuries later. What unoriginal kinds of sinners are we!
For all who seek to serve those who walk in the soft underbelly of the world, not seeking the low-hanging, visible fruit but serving the fruit that has fallen from the tree, I have only the greatest of admiration. To fully live the command of Christ in places that most people avoid, picking up people passed by and over, the exploited - well what could be more Christ-like?
I am reminded of the story of Hosea and Gomer. While I quote some of it here, you should take a moment and read the whole book - it is relatively short, but it speaks of God's love even for those who seem to completely forsake Him.
On that day—oracle of the LORD— You shall call me “My husband,” and you shall never again call me “My baal.” I will remove from her mouth the names of the Baals; they shall no longer be mentioned by their name. I will make a covenant for them on that day, with the wild animals, With the birds of the air, and with the things that crawl on the ground. Bow and sword and warfare I will destroy from the land, and I will give them rest in safety. I will betroth you to me forever: I will betroth you to me with justice and with judgment, with loyalty and with compassion; I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know the LORD. On that day I will respond—oracle of the LORD— I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth; The earth will respond to the grain, and wine, and oil, and these will respond to Jezreel. I will sow her for myself in the land, and I will have pity on Not-Pitied. I will say to Not-My-People, “You are my people,” and he will say, “My God!”
-- Hosea 2:18-25
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