15 January 2008

Saint Paul of Thebes

Today the Church commemorates Saint Paul of Thebes. While his existence is certain, much of what we know about his life is legendary. Saint Paul is considered the first Christian hermit. He was born in Egypt in the third century A.D.

Paul’s father died while he was a young man, leaving him and his brother an inheritance. Paul’s feelings were hurt when his older brother took his share of the inheritance, so they decided to take the matter to court. On their way, they saw a funeral procession. Paul asked one of the mourners about the dead man. Paul was told that he was one of the noble and rich people of the city, and that he left his riches and his wealth behind, and that they were taking him to bury him with only his garment.

St. Paul sighed in his heart and said to himself, “What do I have to do then with all the money of this temporal world which I shall leave naked?” He looked to his brother and said to him, “My brother, let us return, for I shall not ask you for anything, not even for what is mine.”

On their way back, Paul left his brother and went on his way until he came out of the city. Paul found a place to stop and prayed for three days, asking for guidance in living a life that was pleasing to God. Paul then went to the eastern inner wilderness of Egypt where he remained for the next seventy years. He wore a tunic made of palm tree fiber, ate and drank off the land, and received half a loaf of bread each day from the Lord.

After many years of solitude, the Lord moved Saint Anthony of Egypt to visit Saint Paul in the desert. The two hermits spent some time in the company of each other. After a while Anthony departed. On his way home he saw two angels carrying off Paul’s soul. He turned back and found the lifeless body of the hermit, burying him there under the watchful gaze of a pair of lions.

Prayer of the Day
Gracious God, you led Saint Paul of Thebes into the desert that he might put aside all worldly cares and focus on a life of holiness. Through the example of his life of solitude, prayer and penance, grant that we, who are striving to develop in ourselves the spirit of prayer and service, may come ever closer to you in love. We make our prayer through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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