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Stories of the Saints by  Grace Hall
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ST FELIX AND THE SPIDER

[240] THERE lived in the third century a man called Hermias, who was by birth a Syrian. Having served for a term in the army, he went to Campania and there, in the town of Nola, bought and settled upon an estate, where he remained to the end of his days. He had two sons, one of whom, named after himself, also became a soldier; the other, Felix, entered the priesthood, and personally served the old Bishop of Nola, whose name was Maximus.

During the reign of the Emperor Decius, in one of the periods of persecution, the aged Bishop, fleeing from danger, escaped to the hills, leaving his flock in the care of Felix.

The Emperor's agents coming to Nola, unable to find Maximus, seized his representative, and threw him into a dungeon, where he languished in darkness, heavily manacled with chains.

One night an angel appeared to him, telling him that Maximus, in his hiding place, was dying of cold and hunger. He bade Felix go to his aid; at the same moment the chains fell from the prisoner's hands, ankles, and neck, the doors and outer gates of the prison opened before him, and in freedom Felix followed the angel, who led him to the spot where Maximus lay.

Felix gave the exhausted Bishop food and drink provided by the angel, chafed his nearly frozen limbs, and restored him to life. Then, taking him on his back, he carried him safely home, where a faithful old servant ministered to him.

Felix himself returned to his abode, and there [241] remained in hiding until the persecution came to an end through the death of Decius in the year 251.

But this was not the end of the persecution of Christians, and it was not long before the life of Felix was again in danger.

As he left his lodging one day to seek some place of safety, he came face to face with the very men who were searching for him to take his life. They did not, however, know who he was, and, waylaying him, asked: "Hast thou met one Felix on thy way?"

"Nay," answered Felix, "I met him not."

Then both he and the soldiers hastened each, in his own direction. Felix, knowing well that it was only a matter of minutes before the searchers should learn his identity and hasten after him, fled with all speed toward the edge of the town. There, in the outskirts, he came to a ruined wall whose face was cleft with a narrow rift. He crept with difficulty through this aperture and found among the ruins beyond the wall a dry well, in which he hid himself, none too soon. The soldiers, not finding him in his house, and their suspicions being aroused by the memory of his face and apparel, hastened back on their tracks, expecting to find him still on the road. They came to the cleft. He could hear their voices, and his heart stood still as he heard one suggest investigation beyond the wall.

"Nay," answered another, "it would be useless to look beyond this opening. Seest thou not? No man has passed through in many a day, for so heavy a web have I never beheld spun by living spider. A web like this is a long labour!"

Such was God's method of protecting His own. He sent him a saviour in the hour of his danger in the person of a spider, who wove, with a rapidity possible only to one sent by God to protect a friend, a web of such size, thickness, and intricacy, that it formed a [242] veritable curtain of gray lace across the break in the wall.

For six months Felix remained in the bottom of the well, tended and fed by a Christian woman who discovered him in his hiding.

When an end came to this persecution of the Church, Felix came out of his retreat, and was greeted by the people of Nola as one supernaturally protected and miraculously saved. They looked upon him as an angel as well as a Saint, and Maximus having died, acclaimed him Bishop. Felix, however, persuaded them to elect Quintus in his stead, and retiring to a little farm remained there in peaceful labour and contemplation to a ripe old age.


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