St. Theodore spent his childhood at his mother’s inn that doubled as a brothel at Sykeon in Asia Minor. When Theodore was about six years old a wonderful cook arrived at the inn who created so much business that his mother stopped her prostitution. The cook became Theodore’s spiritual director, teaching him to visit churches, to pray and fast, and to use the sacraments.
In his teens Theodore lived as a hermit in a cave near Sykeon. Then he shut himself up in a mountainous cave to practice extreme mortification. But Theodore also became well known for serving his neighbors with his gifts of healing, exorcism, and prophecy. For example, once he helped the treasurer of Heliopolis, who came to him with this tearful story:
“Have pity on me, oh servant of God, for the tragedy which has befallen me! I sent my elder son to collect the church-taxes from the villages and he has taken the whole sum and made off! I therefore implore your holiness to pray to God to restore him to me, because all my substance is insufficient to pay back to the church the large sum he has taken.”
And the holy man sent this reply . . . “If you will agree that when he is found you will not give him a beating nor compel him to give up more money than the amount he stole, God will be entreated and restore your son to you” . . . Then the father agreed to these terms on oath. . . .Then the holy man prayed to the Lord to hold up the man who had committed the theft in whatsoever place he might be and to make known with all speed where he would be found. . . .Now the holy man’s prayer reached the son in a place close to the city of Nicea . . . Some men who knew him and the treasurer . . . recognized him and . . . laid hold on him and sent word to the treasurer. The latter came and took the stolen gold away from him and returned to the holy man giving thanks to God. At the young age of eighteen Theodore was ordained a priest.
Upon his return he adopted some weird ascetical practices. Annually from Christmas to Palm Sunday he had himself suspended from a rock in a cage. He also wrapped himself in an iron breastplate, iron collar, rings, and chains. His reputed holiness attracted many disciples, and he developed a large monastic settlement at Sykeon.
When the church at Anastasiopolis chose Theodore as bishop, he reluctantly accepted the office. About his administration we know very little as his biography records only a long series of his miracles. After ten years he resigned because he was neglecting his prayer and his monks at Sykeon. Theodore retired to an oratory near Heliopolis. There he exercised a ministry of healing and miracles until his death in 613.
Image credit: Saint Theodore of Sykeon by unknown artist, unknown date. Public Domain via Wikimedia.