St. Silas — Prayed and Sang Hymns to God While in Prison

July 13 is the feast of St. Silas, faithful companion of St. Paul

LEFT: Traditional icon of Silas. RIGHT: Rembrandt, “Saint Paul in Prison,” 1627.
LEFT: Traditional icon of Silas. RIGHT: Rembrandt, “Saint Paul in Prison,” 1627. (photo: Public Domain)

“About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose.” —Acts 16:25–26

While Silas (also known as Silvanus) shared news from the Council of Jerusalem to believers in Antioch, Paul recognized that he was filled with great faith and zeal. So, not long after, Paul brought him along as an assistant on his second missionary journey. Silas encountered many adventures while traveling with Paul; however, their time in Philippi seems to have been the most remarkable.

While preaching in Philippi, the two brethren came across a slave girl who also happened to be a fortune-teller. After hearing Paul and Silas preach, the girl felt compelled to trail behind them, constantly shouting out to people, “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” After many days, the shouting irritated Paul. He turned to the slave girl and in the name of Jesus Christ commanded the spirit within her to leave — which it did!

Just as the disruptive shouting stopped, the girl’s clairvoyant abilities ceased as well, causing a great loss of income to her owners. These infuriated slaveholders dragged Silas and Paul to the public square, where they were verbally attacked, stripped, beaten and then thrown into prison.

The two holy men spent that night in prison singing and praying. Suddenly, at about midnight, an earthquake shook violently, breaking free the prisoners’ chains and cell doors. Silas’ and Paul’s amazement was interrupted by the distressed voice of the jailer, who was ready to take his own life over the fear of losing his prisoners. Silas and Paul compassionately stopped him and offered him encouragement. The jailer’s spirit began to brighten; he became hungry for knowledge of Christianity and even brought Silas and Paul to his home that night to meet his family. The next day, the magistrates found out that Silas and Paul were Roman citizens and granted them a swift release.

Silas continued to help Paul with further travels, writings, and teachings. It is written that he also spent time with Peter, supporting his evangelizing works as well.


Nine Days of Bible Journaling with St. Silas

July 13 is the memorial for both St. Silas and an Old Testament saint — St. Ezra. If inspired, spend nine days with St. Silas by reading the narratives about him in the Bible. Prayerfully ponder over each verse; perhaps flip to corresponding verses for a richer understanding. Let some inspirations and reflections pour out of your pen, onto a notebook. Ask St. Silas to pray for you during the nine days and see if his story can encourage a closer relationship with God.

  • Day 1) Acts 15:22–35, 40
  • Day 2) Acts 16:16–40
  • Day 3) Acts 17:1–4
  • Day 4) Acts 17:10–15
  • Day 5) Acts 18:5–6
  • Day 6) 2 Corinthians 1:19
  • Day 7) 1 Thessalonians 1:1
  • Day 8) 2 Thessalonians 1:1
  • Day 9) 1 Peter 5:12
Duccio’s ‘Pentecost’ (1308)

Pray the Pentecost Novena

The prayer recalls and invites Catholics to participate in the nine days that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the apostles spent in prayer after Christ ascended into heaven.