Tag Archive: simplicity


Salvation for the City

It was revealed to Abba Anthony in his desert that there was one who was his equal in the city. He was a doctor by profession and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor, and every day he sang the Sanctus with the angels.

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers

It is easy to become discouraged in the spiritual life. It is easy to think, “I am no St. Anthony. How can I hope for blessedness? How can I even be saved?” Attempting to answer this concern is, in part, the reason for this blog. I love the wisdom of the Christian ascetic tradition, but nearly all of it is written primarily by and for monastics. Is perfection only possible in the desert? Or might there be hope for the city as well? Continue reading

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Journeying With St. Patrick

Then, having received the benedictions, and all things having been accomplished according to custom (moreover with a special appropriateness to Patrick, this verse of the Psalmist was sung, “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek “), the venerable traveller [St. Patrick] got on board, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, a ship prepared for him, and arrived in Britain; and dispensing with everything that could delay his journey [on foot], except what the requirements of ordinary life demand (for no one seeks the Lord by sloth), with all speed and with a favouring wind, he crossed our sea.

Muirchu’s Life of Patrick 9

St. Patrick’s biographer, Muirchu, highlights two interesting things in this little excerpt. First, St. Patrick does not simply get on board a ship; he boards the ship “in the name of the Blessed Trinity.” Second, Patrick rids himself of all that is unnecessary for his journey “for no one seeks the Lord by sloth.” Continue reading

What Makes a Monk?

Abba Macarius said to Abba Zacharias: “Tell me, what makes a monk?” He said: “Is it not wrong that you should be asking me?” And Abba Macarius said to him: “I am sure I ought to ask of you, my son, Zacharias. I have one who urges me on to ask you.” Zacharias said to him: “As far as I can tell, Father, I think that whoever controls and forces himself to be content with necessities and nothing more, that man is a monk.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 1.6

The word monk (Gk. monachos) means solitary. One might think that the answer to Abba Macarius’s question would be quite simple then: a monk is anyone who willingly lives alone, presumably for spiritual discipline. Furthermore, one would presume that Abba Macarius, whose name is Greek (meaning “blessed” or “happy”) and who presumably spoke Greek, knew precisely what this Greek word meant. But it was not and is not a simple question. As happens in all languages, the semantic range of words broadens, narrows, and shifts. The same was true for the word “monk” at the time. What can we learn from this saying, and how is it relevant for those who live in the world and are by no means monks, in the traditional sense, today? Continue reading