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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15 -- Feast of Saint Pachomius the Great

The founder of Monasticism, Pachomius
The draft must have been an appalling thing back in the day.  It is a disturbing thought now, if seriously contemplated.  The idea that the government can gaffle young men (and women in some countries) and hurl them toward their deaths is downright hideous when contemplated.  Fortunately, most of us only contemplate it when a war movie or reading a book like The Things They Carried.  Or perhaps on Thanksgiving when we load "Alice's Restaurant" into the iPod and remember that the sergeant had a lot of damn gall to ask if Arlo was moral enough...  It can wait until November. 

Pachomius was a good polytheist who got gaffled up by his local military induction drive.  Back then (fourth century), you didn't get injected, inspected, detected, and infected when you were selected.  You were, however, neglected.  Pachomius and his fellow inductees (what a euphemism for military conscripts, which itself is just a fancy term for prisoners) were herded into pens and held until more bodies were needed.  If the need never came, they were to be released. 

The Cradle of Monasticism
Since conditions were harsh and the food was scarce, local Christians were in the habit of dropping by with food, blankets, and some encouraging quotes from the Gospels.  Pachomius did not forget their thoughtfulness after he had been released from the army.  He sought out a catechist and got himself properly instructed and then baptized.  Then he set off to find Palaemon, a desert hermit, to learn the eremitic life. 

Pachomius revolutionized the Way of the Monk.  Macarius had already organized larvae, or clusters of cells where hermits could live near each other but remain independent.  Pachomius organized these into self-governing religious communities with rules and roles.  Each would be headed by an abba, the Semitic root word for father which later evolved into  abbot and abbess.  Pachomius himself was called Abba at the first true monastery, the community in Tabennisi, Egypt. 

Sometimes a market is full of pent-up demand just waiting for an innovation.  Egypt in the fourth century must have been one of those markets.  Pachomius himself attracted more than 100 followers to his first monastery, and founded nine in his career.  But that's nothing that compared to the 3000 monasteries that sprang up throughout Egypt by his death in 348. 

Since he was Coptic, I should probably have celebrated his feast on May 9, but the Orthodox Church celebrates him on the 15th. 

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