Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint Bessarion, Solitary


Bessarion, an Egyptian, was early instructed in holy things. In childhood he was favoured by God with supernatural lights, and filled with His divine love. He never lost his baptismal innocence, and renouncing all things, lived by faith alone. He would have neither house nor lands, nor even a fixed abode. Looking upon himself as a captive stranger upon earth, he spent his life in wandering about the desert, bearing patiently day and night the scorching heat or the extreme cold. His heroic detachment led him to practise most severe penance; and he once stood forty days and nights in a thicket of thorns. His charity equalled his detachment. Finding the corpse of a poor man lying uncovered, he laid his cloak upon him, and as he went further on he bestowed his tunic on a beggar, remaining without clothes until a passer-by bestowed some upon him. His life was so faultless that it resembled that of an angel, and his unbounded faith enabled him to work numberless miracles, though in his humility he concealed them. Thus, for example, when walking by the sea-shore, his disciple said, ‘Father, I am overcome by thirst,’ Bessarion knelt in prayer, and then said, ‘Drink the waters of the sea.’ The disciple knelt down to do so, and found it changed into fresh water: he wished to take some of it with him, but Bessarion forbade him, saying, ‘God, who is here, is likewise everywhere.’

Our faith teaches us that all we see in this world should be no more to us than the toys of a child. Let us not amuse ourselves with such trifles, but try to banish the world and its cares from our hearts.

Our greatest misfortune is the value we set upon visible things, which are the only ones we prize. If we could but taste for one moment the treasures of heaven, how we should despise those which now dazzle and fascinate us! – Saint Nilus

Bessarion would sometimes leave the wilds of the desert, and traverse those parts inhabited by other solitaries. When he approached a monastery he stood outside, sighing and weeping like a shipwrecked mariner who has lost his all. When offered help or shelter, he answered, ‘I can never enter till I have regained what I have lost meaning, his original innocence. And he added: ‘I have fallen into the hands of pirates. I am degraded from my rank of nobility. I must suffer all the days of my life. There is nothing left for me but to consume it in tears.’

Hath not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Him? – James 2:5

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Saint Bessarion, Solitary”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 April 2015. Web. 21 February 2019. <>