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"Father - I wish to be a monk in your company!"
Here is one of the earliest accounts in existence of a young man requesting to become a monk.
Pachomius, the founder of the communal form of monasticism, is just beginning his life as a monk. A touching story, it surprises by its freshness and vivid description of a deeply human encounter between an old monk and idealistic young man which took place over sixteen centuries ago!
He knocked on the door of the cell. Immediately, the old man looked out through the window, saw him, and said roughly: “Why are you knocking?” - for he was abrupt in speech. Pachomius replied: “Father, I wish you would allow me to become a monk in your company”. The old man, Apa Palamoun replied: “What you ask is not so easy. Many young men have come here for that very purpose and could not bear this way of life – they turned back, because they were unwilling to labor at virtue. Now then – go settle down in a cell of your own, hold on firmly to what God has given you, and you will be honorable in His sight. Test yourself in the discipline of the monastic way of life to see if you can be steadfast – then, when you are ready, come back to me again. When you come back, I will be ready, as far as my own weakness allows, to labor along side you until you get to know yourself.” He went on to say: “This is my way of life which I learned from those who went before me: I always spend half the night and often the whole night in the recitation of scripture and prayer, while applying myself to manual work, lest I be overcome by sleep. Drinking wine, eating cooked meats – these things are quite unknown to me. I fast until evening, eating only one time during the day in summer, while in the winter, I eat every other or third day. I recite sixty prayers during the day, and fifty during the night. So – I have told you what the law of monastic life is. Now, go, try yourself in every point. If you are able to do what I have taught you, and if you do not timidly run away, then I will rejoice with you! When Pachomius heard Palamoun say this, he answered humbly: “I have been trying myself in everything for days before entrusting myself to your kindness!” Then Palamoun came down, opened the door, embraced him warmly and said: “Do not think, my son, that what I said to you about my harsh asceticism, prayers, and vigils, I said out of vainglory. Do not think either that I wish to impose on you in any way. I only mean to teach you how to work at your salvation so that you might have no pretext against me on the day of judgment.” He received Pachomius with joy and kept him in his company for days and tested him. After the old man had tried him for three full months, and seen his courage and his firm determination, he took a monk's habit with the belt and he placed it before the altar, and they spent the whole night praying over them. Then he clothed him with it at day-break, and they celebrated the morning prayer together with joy.
A series of comments by St. Aelred on Spiritual Friendship
"A friend is a guardian of love or, as some might say, a guardian of the spirit itself. Since it is fitting that my friend be a guardian of the love we share, and the guardian of my own spirit, so as to preserve all its secrets in faithful silence, let him, as far as he can, cure and endure such defects as he may observe in me; let him rejoice with his friend in his joys and weep with him in his sorrows, and feel as his own all that his friend experiences."
I Protected Them In Your Name Mother Miriam Pollard
The sacred name is arms around you,
A soft blanket of choice:
"You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."
"I guarded them."
I keep you safe.
I blow on the poisonous clouds of evil that threaten you,
And clear the horizon, until the sky is blue.
When you think you are alone, you are mistaken.
When you think you have lost sight of me, you are wrong.
When you think your mind is empty of me
And your heart has lost the shape of mine,
It is not you who have chosen me,
But I who have chosen you.
And I will not abandon the children of my choice.
I am the mountain on which you rest.
I am the river that never ceases to rise from its source,
That never ceases to throw itself down into the valley.
I am everything stable and unyielding and fair.
To be chosen is to be embraced by the eternal arms,
Rocked and held and sheltered.
To be guarded is to be safe.
Do not be afraid.
You are mine.
You are cherished and valued and desired.
You will never slip out of my hands.
Mother Miriam Pollard
Abbess of Santa Rita Abbey, Arizona
Who was that leper?
One day, when Abba Agathon was on his way to town to sell small utensils, he saw a leper sitting on the roadside, who asked: "Where are you going?" Abba Agathon replied: "To town, to sell these things. Then he said: "Do me a favor, and take me there." So he picked him up and carried him to the town. Then he said: "Put me down in the place where you intend to sell those things." So he did. And when he sold one item, the leper asked: "How much did you sell that for?" So he told him how much it was. Then he said: "Buy me something nice with the money you made." So he bought it. He sold another item. Then the leper asked: "And how much did you sell that for?" So he told him the price. Then he said: "Buy me something else." So he bought it. After selling everything, Abba Agathon wanted to go. Then the leper asked: "Are you going back now?" "Yes", he replied. Then, the leper said: "Do me a favor once again, and carry me back to where you found me this morning." So, Abba Agathon carried him back to the place where he found him earlier. Then the leper said: "You are blessed, Agathon! Blessed by the Lord of heaven and earth!" When Abba Agathon looked up to see who had spoken, he saw nobody. It was an angel of the Lord who had come to test him.
The Secrets We Hide in Baskets
There was a small community of monks living in the Egyptian desert, and one day several of them came to the Abba, the spiritual father of the community. "We have reason to believe one of the monks is being visited by a woman at night." they told him. "We thought you should be informed." That evening, after night fall, the Abba paid a visit to the monk accused of unchastity. When he arrived at the monk's cell, he knocked on the door and was invited in by the monk, who was clearly quite astonished to have the holy old man visit him at that hour. Coming in, the Abba saw a large basket in a corner and seated himself on top of it while he visited amiably with the monk. A few minutes into the conversation a knock came at the door and a large group of monks pushed their way in. They had observed the Abba go to the monk's cell and had come to see the monk shamefaced and also to see what punishment would be meted out. Imagine their surprise when they found the Abba and the monk quietly engaged in conversation and no sign of a woman anywhere. Baffled and disappointed, they all returned to their cells and went to sleep. When they were all gone and the Abba was alone with the monk, he came down off the top of the basket, removed the lid and, addressing the woman inside, said she could now return to her home. Following her to the door, the Abba prepared to leave himself and it appeared he would say nothing to the monk at all. Then, just before leaving, he turned to the monk and said: "Attend to yourself," bade him goodnight and returned to his cell.