Dispatch from the Desert: November 9th thru 15th

African Saints (from the Prologue of Ohrid)

November 9  John the Dwarf (ca. 407)  This well loved monk was a disciple of Paisius the Great and Pambo.  Under Pambo’s direction, John watered a dry stick for 3 years until it suddenly bore leaves and fruit.  This is how he learned the benefits of obedience.  John would later be the teacher of Arsenius.  Forty-seven lessons in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to this short spiritual giant.

November 11  Menas (304) He was an Egyptian and a Roman soldier.  As a Christian, he refused to participate in pagan idol worship and fled to the wilderness.  He declared his faith in a nearby town where the officials arrested and tortured him.  He was beheaded and burned.  It is said that Greek and other Allied soldiers fighting the Nazis at the battle of El-Alemein, Egypt saw Saint Menas fighting alongside them. 

November 12  John the Merciful (620) He was the son of a Cypriot prince and lost his wife and children as a young man.  Because of his great compassion and piety, John was chosen to serve as the Patriarch of Alexandria.  While serving the Liturgy, John remembered the Lord’s commandment to settle a disagreement with a brother before taking a gift to the altar (Matthew 5:23, 24).  Knowing there was a priest who had a grievance against him, John left the Holy Gifts to go to him and beg for forgiveness.  Only when they made peace did John return to the altar and continue the service.

Nilus (ca. 450) He was an official in Constantinople with a wife, daughter, and son.  Weary of the sinful ways of the city, the wife and daughter went to a convent in Egypt while Nilus and their son, Theodulus, went to Mount Sinai.  He was known for his great asceticism and writings on spiritual living.

A Word from the Fathers and Mothers

“Why hate the man who has grieved you?  It is not he who has done the wrong, but the devil.  Hate the sickness but not the sick person.”  Amma Syncletica, from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

“Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”  Abba Poemen (the Shepherd), from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers


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