292, Thebes, Egypt
9 May 348, Egypt
Though St. Antony be justly esteemed the institutor of the cenobitic life, or that of religious persons living in community under a certain rule, St. Pachomius was the first who drew up a monastic rule in writing. He was born in Upper Thebais about the year 292, of idolatrous parents, and was educated in their blind superstition, and in the study of the Egyptian sciences. From his infancy, he was meek and modest, and had an aversion to the profane ceremonies used by the infidels in the worship of their idols. Being about twenty years of age, he was pressed into the emperor's troops, probably the tyrant Maximinus, who was master of Egypt from the year 310; and in 312 made great levies to carry on a war against Licinius and Constantine. He was, with several other recruits, put on board a vessel that was falling down the river. They arrived in the evening at Thebes, or Diospolis, the capital of Thebais, a city in which dwelt many Christians. Those true disciples of Christ sought every opportunity of relieving and comforting all that were in distress, and were moved with compassion towards the recruits, who were kept close confined, and very ill-treated. The Christians of this city showed them the same tenderness as if they had been their own children; took all possible care of them, and supplied them liberally with money and necessaries.
Pachomius received first his own eldest brother John, and after his death many others, so that he enlarged his house; and the number of his monks in a short time amounted to a hundred. Their clothing was of rough linen; that of St. Pachomius himself often haircloth. He passed fifteen years without ever lying down, taking his short rest sitting on a stone. He even grudged himself the least time which he allowed to necessary sleep, because he wished he could have been able to employ all his moments in the actual exercises of divine love. From the time of his conversion he never ate a full meal. By his rule, the fasts and tasks of work were proportioned to every one's strength; though all are together in one common refectory, in silence, with their cowl or hood drawn over their heads, that they might not see one another at their meals. Their habit was a tunic of white linen without sleeves, with a cowl of the same stuff; they wore on their shoulders a white goatskin, called a Melotes. They received the holy communion on the first and last days of every week. Novices were tried with great severity before they were admitted to the habit, the taking of which was then deemed the monastic profession, and attended with the vows. St. Pachomius preferred none of his monks to holy orders, and his monasteries were often served by priests from abroad, though he admitted priests, when any presented themselves, to the habit, and he employed them in the functions of their ministry. All his monks were occupied in various kinds of manual labor: no moment was allowed for idleness. The saint, with the greatest care, comforted and served the sick himself. Silence was so strictly observed at Tabenna, that a monk, who wanted any thing necessary, was only to ask for it by signs. In going from one place to another, the monks were ordered always to meditate on some passage of the holy scripture, and sing psalms at their work. The sacrifice of the mass was offered for every monk that died, as we read in the life of St. Pachomius. His rule was translated into Latin by St. Jerome, and is still extant. He received the sickly and weak, rejecting none for the want of corporal strength, being desirous to conduct to heaven all souls which had fervor to walk in the paths of perfection. He built six other monasteries in Thebias, not far asunder, and from the year 336, chose often to reside in that of Pabau, or Pau, near Thebes, in its territory, though not far from Tabenna, situated in the neighboring province of Diospolis, also in Thebais. Pabau became a more numerous and more famous monastery than Tabenna itself. By the advice of Serapion, bishop of Tentyra, he built a church in a village for the benefit of the poor shepherds, in which for some time he performed the office of Lector, reading to the people the word of God with admirable fervor; in which function he appeared rather like an angel than a man. He converted many infidels, and zealously opposed the Arians, but could never be induced by his bishop to receive the holy order of priesthood. In 333, he was favored with a visit of St. Athanasius at Tabenna. His sister, at a certain time, came to his monastery desiring to see him; but he sent her word at the gate, that no woman could be allowed to enter his enclosure, and that she ought to be satisfied with hearing that he was alive. However, it being her desire to embrace a religious state, he built her a nunnery on the other side of the Nile, which was soon filled with holy virgins. St. Pachomius going one day to Pane, one of his monasteries, met the funeral procession of a tepid monk deceased. Knowing the wretched state in which he died and to strike a terror into the slothful, he forbade his monks to proceed in singing psalms, and ordered the clothes which covered the corpse to be burnt, saying: "Honors could only increase his torments; but the ignominy with which his body was treated, might move God to show more mercy to his soul; for God forgives some sins not only in this world, but also in the next." When the procurator of the house had sold the mats at market at a higher price than the saint had bid him, he ordered him to carry back the money to the buyers, and chastised him for his avarice.
SharedfromSource: Lives of the SaintsbyAlbanButlerEditedPost/saints/Stpachomius