IN the beginning of the fourth century great levies of troops were made throughout Egypt for the service of the Roman emperor. Among the recruits was Pachomius, a young heathen, then in his twenty-first year. On his way down the Nile he passed a village, whose inhabitants gave him food and money. Marvelling at this kindness, Pachomius was told they were Christians, and hoped for a reward in the life to come. He then prayed God to show him the truth, and promised to devote his life to His service. On being discharged, he returned to a Christian village in Egypt, where he was instructed and baptized.
Instead of going home, he sought Palemon, an aged solitary, to learn from him a perfect life, and with great joy embraced the most severe austerities. Their food was bread and water, once a day in summer, and once in two days in winter; sometimes they added herbs, but mixed ashes with them. They only slept one hour each night, and this short repose Pachomius took sitting upright without support. Three times God revealed to him that he was to found a religious order at Tabenna; and an angel gave him a rule of life. Trusting in God, he built a monastery, although he had no disciples; but vast multitudes soon flocked to him, and he trained them in perfect detachment from creatures and from self. One day a monk, by dint of great exertions, contrived to make two mats instead of the one which was the usual daily task, and set them both out in front of his cell, that Pachomius might see how diligent he had been. But the Saint, perceiving the vainglory which had prompted the act, said, “This brother has taken a great deal of pains from morning till night to give his work to the devil” Then, to cure him of his delusion, Pachomius imposed on him as a penance to keep his cell for five months and to taste no food but bread and water. His visions and miracles were innumerable, and he read all hearts. His holy death occurred in 348.
Reflection.—”To live in great simplicity,” said St. Pachomius, “and in a wise ignorance, is exceeding wise.”