Today's Saint

St. Arsenius

Arsenius_the_Great

Although there is some question about his early life, it seems that St. Arsenius was born in Rome around the year 354, became a deacon, and later tutor to the sons of the Emperor Theodosius I of Constantinople. He lived at court amid great wealth and pomp, had splendid apartments, rich clothes, and a host of servants. After ten years of this kind of life, Arsenius began to feel the need to renounce the world and flee to the desert. It is said that he heard a voice saying, “Arsenius, flee the company of men, and thou shalt be saved.”

Around the year 400, Arsenius joined the desert monks at Skete; later he went to Canopus and Troe. He lived the most austere of lives, performed penances, and prayed unceasingly. When told that he had been left a legacy by a relative who was a senator, he refused it saying, “I died eleven years ago and cannot be his heir.” When Arsenius did indeed die, he was 95 years old.

Lessons

St. Arsenius left us with forty-four maxims and moral anecdotes. His sayings give us much food for thought:

Asked one day why he, a learned man, sought the advice of a monk who had no education, he replied, “I am not unacquainted with the learning of the Greeks and the Romans; but I have not yet learned the alphabet of the science of the saints, whereof this seemingly ignorant Egyptian is master.”

Again, when asked why many uneducated Egyptians seemed to make more progress in the ways of virtue than educated men, Arsenius answered, “We make no progress because we dwell in that exterior learning which puffs up the mind; but these illiterate Egyptians have a true sense of their own weakness, blindness, and insufficiency; and by that very thing they are qualified to labor successfully in the pursuit of virtue.”

Employed as many of the monks were in making mats of palm leaves, Arsenius never changed the water in which he moistened the leaves, allowing it to become fetid. He claimed, “I ought to be punished by this smell for the self-indulgence with which I formerly used perfumes.”

His abbot once asked him why he so much shunned the company of the other monks. The saint answered, “God knows how dearly I love you all; but I find I cannot be both with God and with men at the same time; nor can I think of leaving God to converse with men.”

Although St. Arsenius did give spiritual instruction to many of his brethren, he often said, “I have always something to repent for after having talked, but have never been sorry for having been silent.”

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Vincent de Paul (Extrordinary form), Priest and Founder of the Vincentians, Patron of all charitable societies

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