Although St. Anthony is usually considered the founder of Christian monasticism, it was really St. Pachomius who began monasticism as we know it today. He was the first monk to organize hermits into groups and provide them with a written rule, and both St. Basil and St. Benedict drew from this rule when they wrote their own.
St. Pachomius was born in Egypt to pagan parents around 292. At the age of 20 he was forced into the Emperor Maximinus’ army and, as a virtual prisoner, lived under horrible conditions. The great kindness of Christians at Thebes towards himself and the other soldiers made an indelible impression upon him and led to his conversion after his discharge. After being baptized, he became a disciple of a hermit, Palemon, and the two of them led a life of extreme austerity and total dedication to God.
Later, Pachomius felt called to build a monastery on the banks of the Nile at Tabennisi, so around the year 320, Palemon helped him build a cell there and remained with him for some time before returning to his solitary life. In a short time some one hundred monks had joined Pachomius, who taught them the principles of community living. So prevalent did the desire to emulate the life of Pachomius and his monks become, that he was eventually required to establish ten other monasteries for men and two for women.
Before his death in 346, there were anywhere from three to seven thousand monks in his houses, and his order lasted in the East until the 11th century.
1. St. Pachomius lived entirely focused on God. Even as he and his monks worked for their sustenance, they prayed constantly, took only what was needed for the barest essentials, and gave the rest to the poor. Let us learn to live generously, focused first on God and secondly on those around us. It is only when we die to self that we truly begin to live.
2. When asked to pray for a monk who suffered from severe headaches, St. Pachomius once replied, “Though abstinence and prayer be of great merit, yet sickness, suffered with patience, is of much greater.” He prayed that healing come only if it were for the good of a person’s soul. When we look for healing for ourselves or others, may we also consider the good that suffering can do. And if the requested healing is not granted by God, let us not be bitter, but believe that He always knows what’s best for us.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Gregory Nazianzen “The Theologian” (389), Bishop, Doctor