A Year with the Saints – 22 February


He who is truly humble must desire in truth to be despised, mocked, persecuted, and blamed, although wrongfully. If he wishes to imitate Christ, how can he do it better than in this way? Oh, how wise will he, one day, be seen to be, who rejoiced in being accounted vile and even a fool! for such was wisdom itself esteemed. Saint Teresa of Avila

Cassian narrates of the Abbot Paphnutius that, being Superior of a monastery and much revered and esteemed by his monks on account of his venerable age and admirable life, he disliked so much honor, and preferring to see himself humiliated, forgotten and despised, he left the monastery secretly, by night, in the dress of a secular. He then went to the monastery of Saint Pachomius, which was at a great distance from his own, and remained many days at the gate, humbly asking for the habit. He prostrated himself before the monks, who scornfully reproached him with having spent his life in the enjoyment of the world and then coming at last to serve God, urged by necessity, because he had no means of living. Finally, moved by his urgent entreaties, they gave him the habit, with the charge of the garden, assigning to him another monk as his superior, to whom he was to look for everything. Now, not content with performing his duties with great exactness and humility, he consequently took pains to do all that the rest avoided – all the lowest and most disagreeable tasks in the house – and would often rise secretly in the night and do many things that the others were to perform, so that in the morning they would wonder, not knowing how their work came to be done. He continued to live in this manner for three years, much pleased with the good opportunity he had to labor and be despised, which was the thing he had so greatly desired. Meanwhile his monks, feeling grievously the loss of such a Father, had gone out in different bands to seek him; they finally found him as he was manuring the ground, and threw themselves at his feet. The bystanders were amazed, but still more so when they heard that this was Paphnutius, whose name was so celebrated among them; and they immediately asked his pardon. The holy old man wept at his misfortune in having been discovered through the envy of the demon, and at having lost the treasure which he had seemed to find. Even by force he was carried back to his monastery, where he was received with indescribable gladness, and watched and guarded with the utmost diligence, that he might not again escape.

MLA Citation