This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15 -- Feast of Saint Paul of Thebes

"Clothes," said the over-quoted sage Mark Twain, "make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society."

Palm-frond tunic by Paul of Thebes
Paul of Thebes desired no influence on society, and yet he kicked off a tremendously popular trend in Christianity.  Paul was an Egyptian Christian when the Decian Persecution came through.  This was sometime around 250.  He had no interest in being tortured and martyred, but neither was he inclined to abandon his faith.  The other option was to get away from folks, and this looked especially attractive since his brother Peter was planning to get him killed for the family inheritance. 

Paul hiked into the desert and found a nice cave with a clear spring and a palm tree.  What more could anyone want?  The palm offered fruit, and Paul used its fronds to weave a simple garment for himself.  Eventually, a raven started bringing him half a loaf of bread every day.  There must have been many generations of ravens stepping up to the task since he lasted out there for seventy years until his death at age 113.

Saint Anthony the Great, considered the Father of Western Monasticism, had the opportunity to meet Paul jut before the hermit's death.  After many years living in the wilderness, Saint Anthony dreamed of a hermit older than himself.  A wolf guided Anthony to Paul's cave.  They sat and talked about faith and all that hermit stuff.  A day and a night they chatted, and when it came time to eat, the raven carried a double loaf of bread.  Each wanted to defer the honor of breaking it to the other -- at last they grasped the loaf together and broke it.

When Paul died the next day, Anthony swapped the palm frond garment fora tunic that Saint Athanasius of Alexandria had given him.  A couple of lions wandered over and dug Paul's grave, and then Anthony buried him and went away.  Later, when Anthony was in a monastery and still later in Alexandria, he wore the palm frond garment on two occasions: the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter) and Pentecost.

Paul was a desert father with or without his palm fronds.  Had he been naked, he would have been no less a hermit.  But like John the Baptist with his camel hair coat and leather belt, Paul must have made a deep impression on anyone who spotted him, caveside in a stiff, scratchy, and ill-fitting pale green tunic, kneeling in prayer. 

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