For a number of centuries, St. Giles was one of the most popular saints in the Church—he was numbered among the 14 Holy Helpers, saints invoked for the protection against the plague.
Because of his popularity, stories about St. Giles exaggerated the historical facts of his life. The most that we can tell for certain is that he was a hermit or monk who lived near the mouth of the Rhone river in southern France sometime around the seventh century.
One of the legends that arose around his life states that he was born in Athens, Greece. It is said that as a young man, he cured a beggar when he gave him his cloak. After working other wonders, he escaped the adulation of others by traveling to France to live in solitude in a cave.
He lived in such isolation that God sent a deer to nourish him with her milk. When the local king was hunting in the forest, his party found the deer and pursued it until it hid in Giles’ cave. The cave was covered by brush, and the hunters shot arrows into the obscured opening, trying to hit the deer; an arrow struck Giles instead. The king expressed remorse and promised to send his physician to care for Giles, but Giles refused any compensation, and instead encouraged the king to build a monastery. He agreed, on the condition that Giles serve as its abbot.
Because of his injury from the arrow, Giles is patron saint of those who have a disability, and his help is also invoked by those suffering from cancer. His relics rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica.
St. Giles, patron saint of those with a disability or who are fighting cancer, pray for us!