St. Genevieve of Paris

Fresco from the Church of St. Stephen and St. Germain, Vezelay, France.  This fresco cycle depicts scenes from the life of St. Germanus (Germain) of Auxerre. Here, St. Germanus blesses St. Genevieve of Paris.

Fresco from the Church of St. Stephen and St. Germain, Vezelay, France. This fresco cycle depicts scenes from the life of St. Germanus (Germain) of Auxerre. Here, St. Germanus blesses St. Genevieve of Paris.

Today is the feast day of St. Genevieve (422-500), Patroness of Paris, whose prayer and encouragement of her fellow Parisians to not flee but to remain in their homes in prayer once saved Paris from Atilla II and his Huns. In this fresco, she is being blessed by Bishop St. Germanus; after hearing him preach when she was seven, Genevieve made the decision to dedicate her life to the service of Christ and His Church.

The Blessing of St. Genevieve of Paris, detail.

The Blessing of St. Genevieve of Paris, detail.

St. Genevieve of Paris Icon

St. Genevieve of Paris Icon

St. Genevieve of Paris Icon

St. Genevieve of Paris Icon

Saint Genevieve icon by Howard Anderson. Oil and metal leaf on linen and wood 34" x 48" Located at Saint Genevieve High School, Panorama City, CA.

Saint Genevieve icon by Howard Anderson. Oil and metal leaf on linen and wood 34? x 48? Located at Saint Genevieve High School, Panorama City, CA.

St. Genevieve

St. Genevieve

This painting of St. Genevieve is on display at the Carnavalet Museum.

This painting of St. Genevieve is on display at the Carnavalet Museum.

St. Rose of Lima (left) and St. Genevieve of Paris from St. Louis Catholic Church, Buffalo, New York.

St. Rose of Lima (left) and St. Genevieve of Paris from St. Louis Catholic Church, Buffalo, New York.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

O God,
who made Saint Thomas Aquinas
outstanding in his zeal for holiness
and his study of sacred doctrine,
grant us, we pray, that we may understand
what he taught and imitate what he accomplished.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

— Concluding Prayer of Lauds on January 28; the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

"Saint Thomas Aquinas," by Carlo Crivelli. 15th Century

“Saint Thomas Aquinas,” by Carlo Crivelli. 15th Century

“Everything imperfect must proceed from something perfect: therefore the First Being must be most perfect. Everything is perfect inasmuch as it is in actuality; imperfect, inasmuch as it is in potentiality, with privation of actuality. That then which is nowise in potentiality, but is pure actuality, must be most perfect; and such is God.” — Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas stained glass

Saint Thomas Aquinas stained glass

Today is the feast day of my patron saint, Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church!

St. Thomas Aquinas was born in Aquino, Italy, in 1225, the youngest son of Count Landulf. St. Aquinas was educated at the Abbey of Monte Cassino and at the University of Naples.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor.

Simply I learned about Wisdom, and ungrudgingly do I share—
her riches I do not hide away;
For to men she is an unfailing treasure;
those who gain this treasure win the friendship of God,
to whom the gifts they have from discipline commend them.
— Wisdom 7:13-14

In 1244, St. Aquinas entered the Dominican Order. He continued his education in Paris and Cologne, studying under St. Albert the Great. He became a Master of Theology at the University of Paris.

Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologiae and the Summa Contra Gentiles, among other works. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1567 by Pius V who called him the Angelic Doctor.

The Angelic Doctor

The Angelic Doctor

“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.” — Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

“A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational.” — Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.” — St. Thomas Aquinas

The Angelic Doctor

The Angelic Doctor

“How is it they live in such harmony the billions of stars – when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know.” — St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” — St. Thomas Aquinas

The Angelic Doctor

The Angelic Doctor

“Wonder is the desire for knowledge.” — St. Thomas Aquinas

Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator, true source of light and fountain of wisdom! Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect, dissipate the darkness which covers me, that of sin and of ignorance. Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, a retentive memory, method and ease in learning, the lucidity to comprehend, and abundant grace in expressing myself. Guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to successful completion. This I ask through Jesus Christ, true God and true man, living and reigning with You and the Father, forever and ever. — a Student’s Prayer, by St. Thomas Aquinas

Saint Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. “Those who are learned will be as radiant as the sky in all its beauty; those who instruct the people in goodness will shine like the stars for all eternity.” — Lauds Gospel Canticle Antiphon from the Common of Doctors.

St. Francis de Sales Mosaic

St. Francis de Sales Mosaic

“The heart that is taken and pressed with a desire of praising the divine goodness more than it is able, after many endeavours goes oftentimes out of itself, to invite all creatures to help it in its design.”  — St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales Icon

St. Francis de Sales Icon

“You aim at a devout life, dear child, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God’s Divine Majesty. But seeing that the small errors people are wont to commit in the beginning of any under taking are apt to wax greater as they advance, and to become irreparable at last, it is most important that you should thoroughly understand wherein lies the grace of true devotion; — and that because while there undoubtedly is such a true devotion, there are also many spurious and idle semblances thereof; and unless you know which is real, you may mistake, and waste your energy in pursuing an empty, profitless shadow.” – From the beginning of An Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales.

 

St. Sebastian

"Martyrdom of St. Sebastian" Benozzo Gozzoli 1465, Tempera on Panel

“Martyrdom of St. Sebastian”
Benozzo Gozzoli
1465, Tempera on Panel

The “Martyrdom of St. Sebastian,” a 1465 tempera work by Benozzo Gozzoli (perhaps best known for his murals in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi,) shows the saint pierced by arrows… which was the price of offending the pagan Roman emperor by working secretly for the good of Christians suffering persecution in Rome. Legend relates that the arrows did not actually kill him; he recovered and eventually confronted the emperor by waiting at a place he knew Diocletian would pass. Sebastian chastised him for his cruelty and called him everything but a worthy public servant. For this, he was beaten to death with clubs and his body dumped in the sewer; it was eventually recovered and entombed.

The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian Peter Paul Rubens c.1608; Oil on Canvas Galleria Corsini, Rome, Italy If it's not Baroque, don't fix it.

The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian
Peter Paul Rubens
c.1608; Oil on Canvas
Galleria Corsini, Rome, Italy
If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.

In 367 a basilica was built over the site of his grave. The site was — about twelve centuries later — ransacked by rampaging Calvinists, who (again) dumped the bones in a ditch. They were again recovered (although they had been mixed with the bones of other saints, and so the knowledge of which bones belonged to which saint was lost). In 1578, these bones were recovered and today are in reliquaries in numerous locations, including Paris, Luxemburg, Antwerp, and Brussels.

St. Sebastian Icon

St. Sebastian Icon

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the veneration of Sebastian dates to at least the time of Ambrose and that the oldest known depiction of him comes from around the year 682 and shows ” a grown, bearded man in court dress but contains no trace of an arrow. It was the art of the Renaissance that first portrayed him as a youth pierced by arrows.”

St. Sebastian Mosaic;  ca. 682 in San Pietro in Vincoli

St. Sebastian Mosaic; ca. 682 in San Pietro in Vincoli

Today is St. Sebastian’s feast day. St. Sebastian is considered a protector against the plague; hopefully, he can also do something for the flu.

Collect:
Grant us, we pray, O Lord, a spirit of fortitude,
so that, taught by the glorious example
of your Martyr Saint Sebastian,
we may learn to obey you rather than men.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

 

The Fifth Little Pig

The_Five_Little_Pigs_pg_13

Why did the Little Pig cry “wee, wee, wee” all the way home? This is the sort of question that keeps me up at night. I have wondered for years what possessed the little pig to cry “wee! wee! wee!” all the way home. Turns out, there’s a reasonable explanation for it.

It seems that in the 1880 Little Folks Series book The History of the Five Little Pigs, there were – reasonably enough – five little pigs, the children of one Mrs. Pig. There is no accounting of the father of these little pigs, but the eldest son in the stories is called Mr. Pig. This would not have been nearly as uncomfortable in 1880 as it is in 2014.

Some of these pigs were wise; some of them were foolish. The author of this particular History does not speculate as to why this is; he simply seems to accept without question that it is the case and that such is natural. Nineteenth-century literature is chock full of prejudices such as this, especially as regards pigs, so this should come as little surprise. Then was not an enlightened time and people thought nothing of passing prejudicial judgment on pigs.

 It remains unclear as to whether or not charges were pressed against Farmer Grumpey.

The fifth and youngest Little Pig, at least according to this History, was particularly foolish. It seems the Little Pigs and Mrs. Pig lived in the vicinity of one Farmer Grumpey. It further seems that Farmer Grumpey was quite dictatorial as regards the administration of the land of his farm and he was loathe to allow anyone other than himself (and, perhaps, Mrs. Grumpey and any little Grumpeys that there might have been – the History’s author is silent as to whether or not Farmer Grumpey and Old Bachelor Grumpey are the same individual) fish on his part of the river.

One day, the Fifth Little Pig decided to engage in various outdoor activities and piscatorian pursuits, and although he had been warned not to fish on Farmer Gumpey’s holdings, this foolish (if we are to accept the opinion of the author of the History) pig ignored the warnings and presumably any posted signs that Farmer Grumpey might have had the foresight to post and went fishing.

The fishing that day was good, and the foolish Little Pig soon landed a large fish. However, he was discovered by Farmer Grumpey before making good his escape and was subsequently beaten with what the History’s author describes as “a great whip.”

Though the foolish Little Pig abandoned his fish and ran, Farmer Grumpey succeeded in catching him and,as the account reports, “laid his whip over his back for some time.”

As a result, the Little Pig ran off, crying “Wee, wee, wee,” all the way home. It remains unclear as to whether or not charges were pressed against Farmer Grumpey.

St Paul of Thebes

St. Paul of Thebes

St. Paul of Thebes

“Behold the man whom you have sought with so much toil, his limbs decayed with age, his gray hairs unkempt. You see before you a man who ere long will be dust. But love endures all things. Tell me therefore, I pray you, how fares the human race? Are new homes springing up in the ancient cities? What government directs the world? Are there still some remaining for the demons to carry away by their delusions?” – St. Paul the First Hermit

Saint Paul the First Hermit or St Paul the Anchorite (d. c. 341) was regarded by St. Jerome as the first Christian hermit; Jerome wrote “The Life of Saint Paul the First Hermit” in or around 375 during Jerome’s sojourn in the desert of Syria (text below).

St. Paul of Thebes Feast Day is January 15; his attributes are a palm tree, two lions, and a raven bearing a loaf of bread.

St. Paul the Hermit by Jusepe De Ribera, 1647

St. Paul the Hermit by Jusepe De Ribera, 1647

Anthony the Great and Paul the Hermit

Anthony the Great and Paul the Hermit

Because a raven brought St. Paul the Hermit bread during the many years he spent in the wilderness, a raven bearing a load of bread is one of the attributes of this saint.

Because a raven brought St. Paul the Hermit bread during the many years he spent in the wilderness, a raven bearing a load of bread is one of the attributes of this saint.

 


 

The Life of Paulus the First Hermit

– St. Jerome, CA 375 AD

It has been a subject of wide-spread and frequent discussion what monk was the first to give a signal example of the hermit life. For some going back too far have found a beginning in those holy men Elias and John, of whom the former seems to have been more than a monk and the latter to have begun to prophesy before his birth. Others, and their opinion is that commonly received, maintain that Antony was the originator of this mode of life, which view is partly true. Partly I say, for the fact is not so much that he preceded the rest as that they all derived from him the necessary stimulus. But it is asserted even at the present day by Amathas and Macarius, two of Antony’s disciples, the former of whom laid his master in the grave, that a certain Paul of Thebes was the leader in the movement, though not the first to bear the name, and this opinion has my approval also. Some as they think fit circulate stories such as this—that he was a man living in an underground cave with flowing hair down to his feet, and invent many incredible tales which it would be useless to detail. Nor does the opinion of men who lie without any sense of shame seem worthy of refutation. So then inasmuch as both Greek and Roman writers have handed down careful accounts of Antony, I have determined to write a short history of Paul’s early and latter days, more because the thing has been passed over than from confidence in my own ability. What his middle life was like, and what snares of Satan he experienced, no man, it is thought, has yet discovered.

During the persecutions of Decius and Valerian, when Cornelius at Rome and Cyprian at Carthage shed their blood in blessed martyrdom, many churches in Egypt and the Thebaid were laid waste by the fury of the storm. At that time the Christians would often pray that they might be smitten with the sword for the name of Christ. But the desire of the crafty foe was to slay the soul, not the body; and this he did by searching diligently for slow but deadly tortures. In the words of Cyprian himself who suffered at his hands: they who wished to die were not suffered to be slain. We give two illustrations, both as especially noteworthy and to make the cruelty of the enemy better known.

A martyr, steadfast in faith, who stood fast as a conqueror amidst the racks and burning plates, was ordered by him to be smeared with honey and to be made to lie under a blazing sun with his hands tied behind his back, so that he who had already surmounted the heat of the frying-pan might be vanquished by the stings of flies. Another who was in the bloom of youth was taken by his command to some delightful pleasure gardens, and there amid white lilies and blushing roses, close by a gently murmuring stream, while overhead the soft whisper of the wind played among the leaves of the trees, was laid upon a deep luxurious feather-bed, bound with fetters of sweet garlands to prevent his escape. When all had withdrawn from him a harlot of great beauty drew near and began with voluptuous embrace to throw her arms around his neck, and, wicked even to relate! to handle his person, so that when once the lusts of the flesh were roused, she might accomplish her licentious purpose. What to do, and whither to turn, the soldier of Christ knew not. Unconquered by tortures he was being overcome by pleasure. At last with an inspiration from heaven he bit off the end of his tongue and spat it in her face as she kissed him. Thus the sensations of lust were subdued by the intense pain which followed.

While such enormities were being perpetrated in the lower part of the Thebaid, Paul and his newly married sister were bereaved of both their parents, he being about sixteen years of age. He was heir to a rich inheritance, highly skilled in both Greek and Egyptian learning, gifted with a gentle disposition and a deep love for God. Amid the thunders of persecution he retired to a house at a considerable distance and in a more secluded spot. But to what crimes does not the “accursed thirst for gold” impel the human heart? His brother-in-law conceived the thought of betraying the youth whom he was bound to conceal. Neither a wife’s tears which so often prevail, nor the ties of blood, nor the all-seeing eye of God above him could turn the traitor from his wickedness. “He came, he was urgent, he acted with cruelty while seeming only to press the claims of affection.”

The young man had the tact to understand this, and, conforming his will to the necessity, fled to the mountain wilds to wait for the end of the persecution. He began with easy stages, and repeated halts, to advance into the desert. At length he found a rocky mountain, at the foot of which, closed by a stone, and was a cave of no great size. He removed the stone (so eager are men to learn what is hidden), made eager search, and saw within a large hall, open to the sky, but shaded by the wide-spread branches of an ancient palm. The tree, however, did not conceal a fountain of transparent clearness, the waters whereof no sooner gushed forth than the stream was swallowed up in a small opening of the same ground which gave it birth. There were besides in the mountain, which was full of cavities, many habitable places, in which were seen, now rough with rust, anvils and hammers for stamping money. The place, Egyptian writers relate, was a secret mint at the time of Antony’s union with Cleopatra.

Accordingly, regarding his abode as a gift from God, he fell in love with it, and there in prayer and solitude spent all the rest of his life. The palm afforded him food and clothing. And, that no one may deem this impossible, I call to witness Jesus and His holy angels that I have seen and still see in that part of the desert which lies between Syria and the Saracens’ country, monks of whom one was shut up for thirty years and lived on barley bread and muddy water, while another in an old cistern (called in the country dialect of Syria Gubba) kept himself alive on five dried figs a day. What I relate then is so strange that it will appear incredible to those who do not believe the words that “all things are possible to him that believeth.”

But to return to the point at which I digressed. The blessed Paul had already lived on earth the life of heaven for a hundred and thirteen years, and Antony at the age of ninety was dwelling in another place of solitude (as he himself was wont to declare), when the thought occurred to the latter, that no monk more perfect than himself had settled in the desert. However, in the stillness of the night it was revealed to him that there was farther in the desert a much better man than he, and that he ought to go and visit him. So then at break of day the venerable old man, supporting and guiding his weak limbs with a staff, started to go: but what direction to choose he knew not. Scorching noontide came, with a broiling sun overhead, but still he did not suffer himself to be turned from the journey he had begun. Said he, “I believe in my God: some time or other He will show me the fellow-servant whom He promised me.” He said no more. All at once he beholds a creature of mingled shape, half horse half man, called by the poets Hippocentaur. At the sight of this he arms himself by making on his forehead the sign of salvation, and then exclaims, “Holloa! Where in these parts is a servant of God living?” The monster after gnashing out some kind of outlandish utterance, in words broken rather than spoken through his bristling lips, at length finds a friendly mode of communication, and extending his right hand points out the way desired. Then with swift flight he crosses the spreading plain and vanishes from the sight of his wondering companion. But whether the devil took this shape to terrify him, or whether it be that the desert which is known to abound in monstrous animals engenders that kind of creature also, we cannot decide.

Antony was amazed, and thinking over what he had seen went on his way. Before long in a small rocky valley shut in on all sides he sees a manikin with hooked snout, horned forehead, and extremities like goats’ feet. When he saw this, Antony like a good soldier seized the shield of faith and the helmet of hope: the creature none the less began to offer to him the fruit of the palm-trees to support him on his journey and as it were pledges of peace. Antony perceiving this stopped and asked who he was. The answer he received from him was this: “I am a mortal being and one of those inhabitants of the desert whom the Gentiles deluded by various forms of error worship under the names of Fauns, Satyrs, and Incubi. I am sent to represent my tribe. We pray you in our behalf to entreat the favor of your Lord and ours, who, we have learnt, came once to save the world, and ‘whose sound has gone forth into all the earth.’” As he uttered such words as these, the aged traveler’s cheeks streamed with tears, the marks of his deep feeling, which he shed in the fullness of his joy. He rejoiced over the Glory of Christ and the destruction of Satan, and marveling all the while that he could understand the Satyr’s language, and striking the ground with his staff, he said, “Woe to thee, Alexandria, who instead of God worships monsters! Woe to thee, harlot city, into which have flowed together the demons of the whole world! What will you say now? Beasts speak of Christ, and you instead of God worship monsters.” He had not finished speaking when, as if on wings, the wild creature fled away. Let no one scruple to believe this incident; its truth is supported by what took place when Constantine was on the throne, a matter of which the whole world was witness. For a man of that kind was brought alive to Alexandria and shown as a wonderful sight to the people. Afterwards his lifeless body, to prevent its decay through the summer heat, was preserved in salt and brought to Antioch that the Emperor might see it.

To pursue my proposed story. Antony traversed the region on which he had entered, seeing only the traces of wild beasts, and the wide waste of the desert. What to do, whither to wend his way, he knew not. Another day had now passed. One thing alone was left him, his confident belief that he could not be forsaken by Christ. The darkness of the second night he wore away in prayer. While it was still twilight, he saw not far away a she-wolf gasping with parching thirst and creeping to the foot of the mountain. He followed it with his eyes; and after the beast had disappeared in a cave he drew near and began to look within. His curiosity profited nothing: the darkness hindered vision. But, as the Scripture says, perfect love casts out fear. With halting step and bated breath he entered, carefully feeling his way; he advanced little by little and repeatedly listened for the sound. At length through the fearful midnight darkness a light appeared in the distance. In his eager haste he struck his foot against a stone and roused the echoes; whereupon the blessed Paul closed the open door and made it fast with a bar. Then Antony sank to the ground at the entrance and until the sixth hour or later craved admission, saying, “Who I am, whence, and why I have come, you know. I know I am not worthy to look upon you: yet unless I see you I will not go away. You welcome beasts: why not a man? I asked and I have found: I knock that it may be opened to me. But if I do not succeed, I will die here on your threshold. You will surely bury me when I am dead.”

“Such was his constant cry: unmoved he stood.
               To whom the hero thus brief answer made”

                                                (Virg. Æn. ii, 650, and vi, 672.”)

“Prayers like these do not mean threats; there is no trickery in tears. Are you surprised at my not welcoming you when you have come here to die?” Thus with smiles Paul gave him access, and, the door being opened, they threw themselves into each other’s arms, greeted one another by name, and joined in thanksgiving to God.

After the sacred kiss Paul sat down and thus began to address Antony. “Behold the man whom you have sought with so much toil, his limbs decayed with age, his gray hairs unkempt. You see before you a man who ere long will be dust. But love endures all things. Tell me therefore, I pray you, how fares the human race? Are new homes springing up in the ancient cities? What government directs the world? Are there still some remaining for the demons to carry away by their delusions?” Thus conversing they noticed with wonder a raven which had settled on the bough of a tree, and was then flying gently down till it came and laid a whole loaf of bread before them. They were astonished, and when it had gone, “See,” said Paul, “the Lord truly loving, truly merciful, has sent us a meal. For the last sixty years I have always received half a loaf: but at your coming Christ has doubled his soldier’s rations.”

Accordingly, having returned thanks to the Lord, they sat down together on the brink of the glassy spring. At this point a dispute arose as to who should break the bread, and nearly the whole day until eventide was spent in the discussion. Paul urged in support of his view the rites of hospitality, Antony pleaded age. At length it was arranged that each should seize the loaf on the side nearest to himself, pull towards him, and keep for his own the part left in his hands. Then on hands and knees they drank a little water from the spring, and offering to God the sacrifice of praise passed the night in vigil. At the return of day the blessed Paul thus spoke to Antony: “I knew long since, brother, that you were dwelling in those parts: long ago God promised you to me for a fellow-servant; but the time of my falling asleep now draws nigh; I have always longed to be dissolved and to be with Christ; my course is finished, and there remains for me a crown of righteousness. Therefore you have been sent by the Lord to lay my poor body in the ground, yea to return earth to earth.”

On hearing this Antony with tears and groans began to pray that he would not desert him, but would take him for a companion on that journey. His friend replied: “You ought not to seek your own, but another man’s good. It is expedient for you to lay aside the burden of the flesh and to follow the Lamb; but it is expedient for the rest of the brethren to be trained by your example. Wherefore be so good as to go and fetch the cloak Bishop Athanasius gave you, to wrap my poor body in.” The blessed Paul asked this favor not because he cared much whether his corpse when it decayed were clothed or naked (why should he indeed, when he had so long worn a garment of palm-leaves stitched together?); but that he might soften his friend’s regrets at his decease. Antony was astonished to find Paul had heard of Athanasius and his cloak; and, seeing as it were Christ Himself in him, he mentally worshipped God without venturing to add a single word; then silently weeping he once more kissed his eyes and hands, and set out on his return to the monastery which was afterwards seized by the Saracens. His steps lagged behind his will. Yet, exhausted as he was with fasting and broken by age, his courage proved victorious over his years.

At last wearied and panting for breath he completed his journey and reached his little dwelling. Here he was met by two disciples who had begun to wait upon him in his advanced age. Said they, “Where have you stayed so long, father?” He replied, “Woe to me a sinner! I do not deserve the name of monk. I have seen Elias, I have seen John in the desert, and I have really seen Paul in Paradise.” He then closed his lips, beat upon his breast, and brought out the cloak from his cell. When his disciples asked him to explain the matter somewhat more fully he said, “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

He then went out, and without taking so much as a morsel of food returned the same way he came, longing for him alone, thirsting to see him, having eyes and thought for none but him. For he was afraid, and the event proved his anticipations correct, that in his absence his friend might yield up his spirit to Christ. And now another day had dawned and a three hours’ journey still remained, when he saw Paul in robes of snowy white ascending on high among the bands of angels, and the choirs of prophets and apostles. Immediately he fell on his face, and threw the coarse sand upon his head, weeping and wailing as he cried, “Why do you cast me from you, Paul? Why go without one farewell? Have you made yourself known so late only to depart so soon?”

The blessed Antony used afterwards to relate that he traversed the rest of the distance at such speed that he flew along like a bird; and not without reason: for on entering the cave he saw the lifeless body in a kneeling attitude, with head erect and hands uplifted. The first thing he did, supposing him to be alive, was to pray by his side. But when he did not hear the sighs which usually come from one in prayer, he fell to kisses and tears, and he then understood that even the dead body of the saint with duteous gestures was praying to God unto whom all things live.

Then having wrapped up the body and carried it forth, all the while chanting hymns and psalms according to the Christian tradition, Antony began to lament that he had no implement for digging the ground. So in a surging sea of thought and pondering many plans he said: “If I return to the monastery, there is a four days’ journey: if I stay here I shall do no good. I will die then, as is fitting, beside Thy warrior, O Christ, and will quickly breathe my last breath. While he turned these things over in his mind, behold, two lions from the recesses of the desert with manes flying on their necks came rushing along. At first he was horrified at the sight, but again turning his thoughts to God, he waited without alarm, as though they were doves that he saw. They came straight to the corpse of the blessed old man and there stopped, fawned upon it and lay down at its feet, roaring aloud as if to make it known that they were mourning in the only way possible to them. Then they began to paw the ground close by, and vie with one another in excavating the sand, until they dug out a place just large enough to hold a man. And immediately, as if demanding a reward for their work, pricking up their ears while they lowered their heads, they came to Antony and began to lick his hands and feet. He perceived that they were begging a blessing from him, and at once with an outburst of praise to Christ that even dumb animals felt His divinity, he said, “Lord, without whose command not a leaf drops from the tree, not a sparrow falls to the ground, grant them what thou know to be best.” Then he waved his hand and bade them depart. When they were gone he bent his aged shoulders beneath the burden of the saint’s body, laid it in the grave, covered it with the excavated soil, and raised over it the customary mound. Another day dawned, and then, that the affectionate heir might not be without something belonging to the intestate dead, he took for himself the tunic which after the manner of wicker-work the saint had woven out of palm-leaves. And so returning to the monastery he unfolded everything in order to his disciples, and on the feast-days of Easter and Pentecost he always wore Paul’s tunic.

I may be permitted at the end of this little treatise to ask those who do not know the extent of their possessions, who adorn their homes with marble, who string house to house and field to field, what did this old man in his nakedness ever lack? Your drinking vessels are of precious stones; he satisfied his thirst with the hollow of his hand. Your tunics are of wrought gold; he had not the raiment of the meanest of your slaves. But on the other hand, poor though he was, Paradise is open to him; you with all your gold will be received into Gahanna. He though naked yet kept the robe of Christ; you, clad in your silks, have lost the vesture of Christ. Paul lies covered with worthless dust, but will rise again to glory; over you are raised costly tombs, but both you and your wealth are doomed to the burning. Have a care, I pray you, at least have a care for the riches you love. Why are even the grave-clothes of your dead made of gold? Why does not your vaunting cease even amid mourning and tears? Cannot the carcasses of rich men decay except in silk?

I beseech you, reader, whoever you may be, to remember Jerome the sinner. He, if God would give him his choice, would much sooner take Paul’s tunic with his merits, than the purple of kings with their punishment.

 

St Anthony Visiting St Paul the Hermit in the Desert (left), The Temptation of St. Anthony (right). Central part are carved figures of St. August, St. Anthony, St. Jerome; bottom part Jesus with 12 Apostles.

St Anthony Visiting St Paul the Hermit in the Desert (left), The Temptation of St. Anthony (right). Central part are carved figures of St. August, St. Anthony, St. Jerome; bottom part Jesus with 12 Apostles.