Partly taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Saints Cosmas and Damian, whose feast day is 26th September, were natives of Asia Minor, born in Cilicia, part of today’s Turkey. Their father, who was a pagan, died while they were still quite small children, but their mother, Theodotia, raised the brothers in Catholic piety. The example of their mother and the reading of holy books preserved them in chasteness of life in accord with the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.
Trained to having become skilled physicians, with their fervent love for both God and neighbour, the brothers went forth to heal by the power of prayer people’s illnesses both of body and soul. They practiced their profession in the seaport of Ayas, Adana, then in the Roman province of Syria. For the maladies which the brothers treated they never took payment, strictly observing the command of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Freely have ye received, freely in turn give” (Mt. 10: 8). They were, therefore, called anargyroi, “the silverless”, and their witness of charity and generosity of spirit converted many to the Catholic Faith.
When the Diocletian persecution began, the Prefect Lysias had Cosmas and Damian arrested, and ordered them to recant. They remained constant under torture, in a miraculous manner suffered no injury from water, fire, air, nor on the cross, and were finally beheaded with the sword. The execution took place on 27th September, probably in the year 287. Their three younger brothers, Anthimus, Leontius, and Euprepius died as martyrs with them.
The remains of the martyrs were buried in the city of Cyrus in Syria; the Emperor Justinian I (527-565) sumptuously restored the city in their honour. Having been cured of a dangerous illness by the intercession of Cosmas and Damian, Justinian, in gratitude for their aid, rebuilt and adorned their church at Constantinople, and it became a celebrated place of pilgrimage. At Rome Pope Felix IV (526-530) erected a church in their honour, the mosaics of which are still among the most valuable art remains of the city.
The true Church and her holy martyrs have always been part and parcel of Christian history, in imitation of Our Blessed Lord, the Innocent Victim, Who shed His Sacred Blood for Man’s Redemption. The only change since the earliest centuries is the name of the perpetrators of the persecution. Today, once again, the greatest part is at the hand of radical Islam. Exile, torture and the beheading of Christians not only continues in the world with unremitting brutality in many parts of Asia and Africa, but shows every sign of intensifying as more and more islamic fanatics, thirsty for blood, are drawn into the ranks of the jihadist terrorists.
May the thousands of recent holy martyrs from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, etc., who like Sts. Cosmas and Damian in the face of horrific suffering and death refused to renounce their Faith and Love of Christ and His Holy Church, pray and strengthen our own faith, inspiring us with their heroic courage and fidelity.
See how ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ helps persecuted Christians.