Saint Giles (Egidius) came from a Greek royal family. Born in Athens around 640. Died in 721. Affluent as they were, his parents King Theodore and Queen Pelagia of Athens provided their son with sound education, but first and foremost they taught him to love God and sacrifice everything for the Kingdom of Heaven. Such upbringing soon bore fruit in Giles` life. He became renowned as an expert in a number of fields, and a paragon of virtues: moral integrity, humility and mercy for the poor. After his parents died prematurely, Giles gave out all the wealth to the needy. Once Giles put some covering on a badly ill cripple thus healing the one, which was believed to be a gesture of God’s appreciation for Giles` deed of Christian mercy and his holiness.
“The one who supports the poor is the one God himself supports”.
The rumour about Giles spread quickly. More and more people visited him asking to heal their bodies and souls. To avoid human glory, Giles left Greece and started working to the glory of God in solitude far from his family and hustle and bustle of everyday life. Crossing the sea, he reached the South of France. There, by the Rhône, Giles came across Werdem, a godly young man, and they both set out into wilderness to commit themselves completely to the matters of God and practice their love. Unfortunately, their peace did not last long. Their holiness and God’s miracles resulting from their prayer attracted the interested and spread rumour about the hermits. Then, Giles realized it would be easier to hide by himself since his goal was to escape human praises. Hence he found a cave in the midst of wilderness and devoted himself to praying and working. The rumour has it that Giles got a hind from God as a company and feeder – the hind sustained him on her milk. It was also the hind that betrayed him before the world in an act of divine providence.
Once the king of Visigoths, Flavius, went hunting in the jungle. One of his hunters pursued Giles` hind to its place of refuge. The hind hid inside the cave and the dogs could not enter. An arrow shot at the deer wounded the saint instead. The king himself approached the injured. Seeing him as a man of God, Flavius gave the Saint considerable wealth. The hermit rejected the gift however. The only donation he accepted was the idea to build a monastery in this place. Since then, the king paid frequent visits to Giles, asking for advice and prayer. Soon more and more young people willing to lead spiritual lives under the guidance of Giles came there. The monastery was founded and Giles became the abbot. Humble as he was, Giles accepted the position seeing it as an act of God’s will.
His story testifies the words of the Gospel: you do not light a candle to conceal its light, but that it may shine around. Giles gave out light and lit the hearts of the youth around. After some time the monastery became a hearth and home of God’s love. There lots of down-and-outs found shelter and regained their lost innocence through hard penance. Living there, the hermits were free from all daily matters and totally committed to the service of God through prayer, fasting, justice, piety, gentleness, purity and all other virtues. Hence, they prayed for God’s grace and staved off numerous disasters. The story has it that once Giles brought a dead young man back to life, and thus converted numerous liberals and solidified the faith of believers at the same time.
Soon afterwards Giles went to Rome to the tombs of Saint Apostles to pay tribute to the Holy Father as a successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ, and to procure privileges for his monastery. Coming back from Rome, he announced the date of his death to his co-brothers and died peacefully among them.