Saint of the Day|
A small cave offered this saint a window on the world
Though a hermit for 65 years, St. John of Egypt touched many lives
By Tony Staley
We often refer to television as a window on the world because it
can bring the people, customs and events of far-away places into
For St. John of Egypt, a fourth century hermit, his window on the
world was literally a single small window in one wall of his
cave. Through that window, he saw the thousands who were
attracted to him as their "window on the spiritual world."
St. John of Egypt was born in about 304 at Lycopolis (now the
city of Asyut) in Lower Egypt. He worked first as a carpenter.
But, at age 25, he decided his true calling was as a hermit. He
found another hermit or anchorite who agreed to serve as his
For the next 10 years, John received guidance from the man,
particularly in obedience and self-surrender. One exercise the
old hermit had John do daily was to water a dry stick as though
it were a living plant.
After the old hermit's death, John spent four or five years
visiting monasteries until deciding to build his own hermitage in
a steep, rocky hill near Lycopolis.
John built three rooms - a bedroom, a workroom/living room and an
oratory and enclosed it entirely, except for the one small window
through which he could receive supplies and talk to visitors -
but only men - on Saturdays and Sundays (he worked and prayed the
Large crowds began gathering on weekends to watch him perform
miracles and hear his wise and prophetic preaching.
Twice, John correctly predicted victories for the Roman Emperor
Theodosius I - first against Maximus in 388 and then again
Eugenius in 392. (As emperor, Theodosius prohibited all pagan
practices in the Empire.)
Once, John correctly foretold that Palladius would one day be
named a bishop and another time, he realized that there was a
deacon among a group of visiting monks from Jerusalem.
Eventually, so many people were coming to visit that his
followers decided they needed to build a hospice for them.
John lived on a diet of dried fruit and vegetables and refused to
eat bread or anything that had been cooked by fire. Nor would he
eat before sunset.
John, who was one of the most famous desert hermits, was said to
have the ability to read minds, as well as to look into people's
souls. In 394, he died in his cell, which was found in the early
20th century. We celebrate his feast on March 27.
The life of St. John of Egypt invites us to consider our own
"windows on the world" and what they teach us - as well as asking
to whom do we serve as a "window on the world" and what picture
are we giving them.
(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, Lives of the Saints II and 365 Saints)