The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 26, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

No luck at getting away from it all

St. Marcian withdrew to desert, but he was followed

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

An interesting fact of human nature is that no matter how strange someone's behavior may look to most people, others will admire that person, try to get close and even imitate that person's behavior.

We see it, for example, with people who have many tattoos or who have undergone multiple body piercings in places that strike some people as extremely uncomfortable. Much as these piercings or tattoos may puzzle the majority, they appeal to a large minority.

In the early church, it was not uncommon for men to move out to the desert in Egypt to live in isolation as hermits and choose to be a Christian by getting away from the world.

Yet, no matter how hard these desert fathers tried to get away from others, people found them and followed them to the wilderness. Some did so because they wanted to live the same sort of life. Others did so because they sought their advice, prayers or miraculous healing. And some did so because they were curious or just wanted to gawk.

A millennium and a half later, many modern Christians can only look at it and wonder why anyone would want to live that way.

Among those who did was St. Marcian, who was born into an aristocratic family in the fourth century in Cyrrhus, Syria. Marcian moved to the most remote place he could find in the desert of Chalcis between Antioch and Euphrates.

The cell he built was so narrow and low, he could not stand up or lie down without bending his body.

Despite living in an isolated area, others heard of him. Two men, Eusebius and Agapitus, convinced him to let them join him as disciples. Before long, others joined them, so Marcian named Eusebius to serve as the community's abbot.

Marcian became even better known after he performed several miracles. Rather than being pleased, he was distressed and refused requests to perform miracles.

Once, another hermit came and asked him to bless some oil for a man whose daughter was sick. Marcian refused. Nevertheless, at that very hour, the girl was healed.

As Marcian lived into old age, he became increasingly distressed by the people who wanted custody of his body after his death. Some people even built chapels at various places around the country in hopes of burying Marcian's body there.

Finally, Marcian made Eusebius promise that his body would be buried in a secret location. Eusebius complied with his wishes and all went well until 50 years after his death, when the burial spot was revealed. His relics were then moved to a place that quickly became a pilgrimage site. We celebrate his feast Nov. 2.

(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and 365 Saints.)

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