This is the second post of ten for my #TenSaintsTenDays series, counting down from the Feast of All Saints to Veterans Day, when Centurions Guild is launching the 2016 Armistice Appeal. Check back in every day until November 11th for a new saint, their story, and a prayer to guide us into the way of peace.
Pachomius of Thebes – Monasticism “With Friends”
Monasticism old and new is marked by a departure from usual patterns of life. In the third century, that meant leaving the urban centers for the desert to flee the increasing corruption of churches and cities alike. St Anthony was a celebrity saint who did just that, but the isolation the hermit prescribed meant only a few could follow in his footsteps. St. Benedict is well known communal (cenobitic) monk whose “rule” of life standardized monasticism for folks doing so in intentional community, but he stood on the shoulders of the first monastic who insisted that the ascetic life was better with friends.
Pachomius was a pagan born in Northern Egypt and conscripted into the Roman army at a young age, who learned in boot camp how to convert the ruins of destroyed villages into military bases. He was locked up before he saw any combat, but he encountered a peculiar group that insisted on bringing him food and clothing in jail. When he was released he converted to their religion wholeheartedly. Almost immediately, he put his military training to use, converting abandoned ruins into monastic communities where believers could endure the rigors of asceticism with one another’s support.
Soldiers with combat arms training often lack the professional skills required for an advanced career that will support them the rest of their lives. Infantrymen see the fires of hell firsthand and know camaraderie can hold them up in times of need, even if their profession cannot. At times, these battle hardened souls return from combat and see communities and churches detached from the virtues they learned in war. Often, soldiers can grow cynical, rejecting both ecclesiastical and political authority, perceiving them as representative of the excesses of a society isolated from harsh realities of war. Veterans seek one another out, trusting more their fellow former warriors than the insulated and isolating superficial relationships so seemingly prevalent in 1st world cultures. By the time he died, Pachomius had helped form eleven monasteries for the thousands of male and female monks he inspired, none of whom ever sought ordination. His feast day is May 9th.
God, who is mysteriously one and yet three, your servant Pachomius has blessed the lives of monastics old and new by his life in community, which was marked by ascetic rigor, simple piety, and emphasis on the laity. You alone, God, create from nothing, and we give you thanks for Pachomius mining the depths of his military training and finding within it the virtue of a life together, building upon his martial experience in obedience to your Word, our Lord. Give us the virtues necessary to live lives similarly shared, through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Follow me on Twitter to get updates each day as the series unfolds, or start by reading the series intro. Learn about Pachomius and more than 45 other #SoldierSaints in my book For God and Country [in that order], © 2013 Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Va. Prayer reprinted by permission.
Are you, or do you know, a #SoldierSaint wrestling between faith and service? Get in touch through my connect page!