In the days of the Most Holy Patriarch John the Almsgiver, there lived in Alexandria a monk named Vitalius, who was a member of the community of the venerable Seridus. At the age of sixty, Vitalius undertook a way of life that seemed wicked and defiled to other men, but to God, Who searched out the hearts and reins, it was well-pleasing. On account of his efforts to bring sinners to repentance, Vitalius was himself counted a sinner by many.
Vitalius compiled a list of all the harlots in Alexandria and would pray for each one individually, begging God to lead her to abandon her sinful life. He worked in the city as a day-laborer for the wage of twelve coppers, one of which he spent on the beans that were his food. Only after sunset did he eat. Then he would go to a house of ill-fame and give the rest of the money to a fallen woman, saying, “Take this as pay for keeping yourself clean tonight.” The two would retire together, the harlot would go to bed, and the elder would stand in a corner and keep vigil all night long, quietly reading the Psalms of David and praying for the woman. At dawn Vitalius would go his way, having enjoined her to tell no one what had happened. He passed night after night without sleep fasting and praying and going from one woman to another until he was back with the first.
God was looking down on the labor of his servant and blessed it. Many of the harlots were shamed by Vitalius’ virtue and, falling to their knees, joined him in prayer. The saint urged them to godly conduct, threatened them with the Lord’s dread judgment and endless torments of Gehenna, and encouraged them with the Master’s compassion and everlasting delight of Heaven. Some forsook their sinful ways and entered into lawful wedlock. Others chose perfect continence, embraced the ascetial life as nuns, and spent the rest of their days weeping for their sins. Still others remained in the world unmarried, abiding in chastity and feeding themselves by the work of their own hands.
Everyone was scandalized by the saint and daily heaped insults upon him. Certain of the clergy reported to the Most Holy Patriarch John the Almsgiver that the elder was visiting brothels nightly and was offending the whole city, but the Patriarch refused to believe that Vitalius was guilty of any evil. The blessed John did not credit scandalmongers, because he was once reproved in a dream for accepting the report of slanderers and having a chaste and innocent monk flogged.
The godly Vitalius finally retired to the little hut he had built for himself by the city gate and without anyone knowing it, he reposed in the Lord. He was found on his knees as though praying, but his holy soul had departed to the Lord. In the saint’s hand was a scroll on which was written, “Men of Alexandria! Judge not until the Lord and righteous Judge comes.”
When the women who had turned to the Lord in repentance learned of the saint’s repose, they wept and came to him, bearing candles and incense for their father and teacher. They proclaimed his virtue to all, declaring that the elder had never touched them and that he visited brothels not to sin, but to save the women living there.
When the Most Holy Patriarch John the Almsgiver learned these things, he went with his clergy to the elder’s cell and saw the scroll with the exhortation not to judge. He also witnessed several miracles performed by the saint, and he told the clergy who had brought him false reports, “See, if I had believed you, I would have transgressed against this innocent, holy elder.”