Today is the Feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, twin brothers and martyrs for the early Church. Word on Fire blog contributor Father Damian Ference takes a closer look at the saints and teaches us that there is more to a name, and a saint, than meets the eye.
I was born in 1976, the same year the film “The Omen” was released. My parents decided to name me Damian, not knowing that Damien was the name of the boy-demon in the popular movie. It could have been worse — my dad actually wanted to name me Fabian, but thankfully my mom would have none of it. (Fabian Ference would have been too much. And Father Fabian Ference? Yikes!) Needless to say, you can imagine that I got my share of demon and devil jokes as a kid. And to this day many folks still find “Father Damian” to be a contradiction of sorts.
Over the weekend I called my dad and asked him which Damian he had in mind when he and my mom named me. Was it Cosmas and Damian, Peter Damian or Damien of Molokai? After a few moments of thoughtful silence he said, “The leper.” So then I asked, “Then why do I spell my name with two ‘As’ and not one ‘A’ and one ‘E’ like the leper?” He said, “I don’t know. That was a long time ago, son.” Fair enough.
The truth is that any saint named Damian or Damien is good enough for me. I like St. Peter Damian a lot, and I think the world of St. Damien of Molokai, but when people ask me about my name, I always talk about the saints who are mentioned in the Roman Canon, whose feast we celebrate today, Sts. Cosmas and Damian.
Cosmas and Damian were twin bothers born in Syria in the third century. They were also doctors, and they became known as “the holy moneyless ones” because they cared for the sick free of charge. The strange practice of accepting no money for medical care was their way of embodying God’s providential love and care for his people. And folks took notice...