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Author Topic: From the Lives of the Desert Fathers: The Life of St. Paul the Simple  (Read 803 times)
Shin
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« on: March 07, 2011, 09:16:43 PM »

I know I have a slightly smoother translation of this somewhere, but I cannot find it at the moment. Cheesy

THE LIFE OF PAUL THE SIMPLE

The Servant of Christ, Hierax, as well as Cronius and several other brothers, told me the story I am going to tell you about Paul the Simple. He was a peasant farmer of transparently innocent and simple life, and he had taken a most beautiful woman for a wife who nevertheless was of very lax morals. Led by Providence to an outcome which he was in fact half hoping for, he came back from the fields unexpectedly one day, went inside, and found her and a man together. When he saw her and the man she was committing adultery with he gave a forthright and heartfelt laugh.

"Fine, fine," he said. "This means that she is no longer any responsibility of mine. In Jesus' name I acknowledge her no longer. Go, take her with you, and her children, for I am leaving to become a monk."

Without saying anything to anybody else he took an eight day journey to holy Antony and knocked on his door.

"What do you want?" asked Antony when he came to the door.

"To become a monk," replied Paul.

"You must be at least sixty. You can't become a monk," said Antony. "Live in the town, work for your living, trusting in the grace of God. You would not be able to cope with all the trials of solitude."

"Whatever you told me to do I would do it," the old man replied.

"I have told you," said Antony. "You are old. You can't be a monk. Go away. Or if you do really want to be a monk go to a cenobium where there are many brothers to support you in your frailty. I am here all by myself, fasting for five days before eating." And with these words he tried to drive Paul away.

Refusing to admit him, Antony shut the door and for three days did not go outside, not even to answer the call of nature. But the old man stayed where he was.

On the fourth day he really had to go outside, but when he opened the door and went out he saw Paul still there and said, "Go away, old man. Why do you keep on bothering me? You can't stay here."

"I don't intend to stay anywhere else except here," said Paul.

Antony looked at him and saw that he had nothing with him to sustain life, no bread, no water or anything else, and he had now been fasting for four days.

"He is so unused to fasting he might die," thought Antony, "and I will be to blame." And so he took him in.

"If you can be obedient and do what I tell you," said Antony, "you'll be all right."

"I will do whatever you say," Paul replied.

Antony in those days followed just as rigorous a way of life as he did when young. In order to test the Paul's mettle he said to him, "Stay here and pray, while I go in and fetch something for you to work with." He then went into his inner room and watched Paul through the window. For the rest of the week he stayed there without moving, even though scorched by the heat. At the end of the week he brought some palm branches which he had soaked in water.

"Take these and weave a rope as you see me doing," he said. The old man wove until the ninth hour, completing fifteen arms-lengths with great difficulty. Antony inspected what he had done and was not satisfied with it.

"You've done that very badly," he said. "Undo it and do it again." It was now the seventh day that this elderly man had been fasting, but Antony was treating him severely like this to see whether he would give up and abandon the life of a monk. But he just took the branches and rewove them, and with great labour put right the unevenness with which he done them at first. Antony saw that he had neither grumbled, nor been downcast, nor turned aside, nor become resentful to the slightest degree, and he began to feel sorry for him. And as the sun set he said, "Well, little father, shall we break some bread together?"

"If you think that's right, abba," replied Paul, thus leaving the decision to Antony without jumping up eagerly at the mention of food. Antony began to change his mind.

"Get the table ready then," he said. And he did so. Antony put the bread on the table, four six-ounce rolls. He put one to soak for himself (for they were dry) and three for Paul. Antony sang a psalm which he knew, and when he had repeated it twelve times he also said a prayer twelve times. This he did in order to test Paul further. But the old man prayed too, as promptly and eagerly as the great Antony himself. (I really think that he would rather feed on scorpions than live falsely.)

"Sit down," the great Antony said to Paul after the twelve prayers, "but we won't eat until vespers. Wait till the bread is eatable." The time for vespers came and Paul still had not eaten, when Antony said, "Get up. We'll pray and then sleep." They left the table and did so. Half way through the night Antony woke Paul for prayers and went on with them right through to the ninth hour. But at last when vespers came and the table had been prepared and they had sung and prayed they sat down to eat.

Antony ate one roll and did not pick up another one. The old man was eating more slowly and still had the roll which he had started. Antony waited till he had finished and said, "Come, little father, eat another roll."

"If you have another one, I will," said Paul, "but not if you won't."

"I've had quite sufficient for one who is a monk," said Antony.

"Since I want to be a monk," said Paul, "that's enough for me too, then." And he got up and said twelve prayers and sang twelve psalms. After the prayers they slept a little for the first part of the night, then rose and sang psalms again till dawn.

He then sent him out to wander in the desert.

"Come back after three days," he said.

This he did.

When some brothers came on a visit he paid close attention to Antony and did whatever Antony wanted.

"See to the visitors' needs and keep silence," he said, "and don't eat anything till they have started on their journey back."

At the end of the third week in which Paul had not eaten anything the brothers asked him why he kept silent, to which he replied nothing at all.

"Why keep silent?" said Antony. "Speak to the brothers." So he spoke.

Once when Antony was given a jar of honey he told Paul to break the jar. He did so and the honey spilled.

"Now scrape up the honey with this shell," he ordered, "but don't get any dirt mixed up in it."

Once he ordered him to draw water all day.

When his garment got a bit tattered, he told him to just get used to it.

In the end this man had grasped such firm hold on obedience by the divine grace given him, that he was able to command the demons. When the great Antony saw that this man had promptly carried out everything he had asked him to do in the way he ordered his life, he said, "See if you can keep on doing this day by day, brother, and stay with me."

"I don't know what else you can show me," said Paul. "I do whatever I see you doing, quite easily and without any strain, the Lord being my helper."

On another day Antony admitted 'in the name of Jesus' that he had indeed become a monk. The great and blessed Antony had become convinced that the soul of this servant of Christ had become almost perfected in all things, even though he was somewhat simple. After a few months Antony was moved by the grace of God to build a cell for him three or four miles away from his own cell, and said to him, "See now, by the help of the grace of Christ you have become a monk. Now live by yourself, and even take on the demons."

So a year after Paul the Most Simple came to live with him, he was highly experienced in a disciplined way of life and was found worthy to battle against the demons and against all kinds of diseases.

One day there was brought to Antony a young man vexed beyond measure by one of the most powerful and savage demons, who railed against heaven itself with curses and blasphemies.

Antony had a look at the young man and said to those who had brought him, "This is not a task for me. I have not yet been given the grace to deal with this very powerful type of demon. Paul the Simple has the gift of dealing with this one." The great Antony went to Paul, that most excellent man, taking them all with him.

"Abba Paul," he said, "Cast out this demon from this person so that he may return home cured and glorify God."

"Why not you?" asked Paul.

"It is not for me," said Antony. "I have other concerns." And the great Antony left the boy there and returned to his cell.

The unassuming old man stood up and poured out a strong prayer to challenge the demon and said, "Abba Antony says, 'Depart from this man'"

"I will not, you disgusting, pompous old man," said the demon, with many curses and blasphemies. Paul put on his sheepskin and belaboured him in the back, crying, "'Go out,' abba Antony says."

The demon abused both Paul and Antony with curses, saying, "You are disgusting old men, lazy and greedy, never content to mind your own business. What have you got in common with us? Why are you browbeating us?"

"Either go now," said Paul, "or I will call upon the power of Christ to bring destruction upon you."

But this unclean demon railed against Jesus also with curses and blasphemies.

"I am not going," he shouted.

This made Paul get angry with the demon. He went outside. It was midday - when the Egyptian heat bears comparison with the furnace of Babylon. The holy old man stood up straight, like a statue, on top of a rock, and prayed, "O Jesus Christ, you were crucified under Pontius Pilate, take note that I will not come down from this rock, nor will I eat or drink even if I die, until you hear me and cast out this demon from this man and liberate him from the unclean spirit." And even as the simple and humble Paul was praying, before he had even finished, the demon cried out, "I'm going, I'm going, driven out by force, overcome by tyranny. I'm getting out of this man and won't come back any more. It is the simplicity and humility of Paul which has driven me out and I don't know where to go."

The moment he went he changed into an enormous dragon about seventy cubits long which crept off towards the Red Sea. Thus were fulfilled the words of Holy Scripture, 'The righteous man shows his faith by what he does' (Proverbs 12.17), and 'On whom shall I look, says the Lord, if not on him who is gentle and humble and trembles at my words?' (Isaiah 66.2). Although lesser (humiliores) demons can be cast out by the faith of men in authority (principales), it takes humble (humiles) men to be able to put to flight the demons of greatest power (principales).

Such were the miracles of the humble Paul the Simple, and there were many others he did, even greater than these. He was known as Simple by all the brothers.
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'Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra. . . Fulcite me floribus. (The flowers appear on the earth. . . stay me up with flowers. Sg 2:12,5)
Shin
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2011, 10:50:21 PM »

I recall reading another telling of this, and there was a comment of along the lines of, it was almost as if God were afraid of losing his good and simple servant Paul, the so swiftly did He reply to this.

The simple love of God of Paul, after a fashion, conquered God. Cheesy

St. Anthony the Great had not yet been granted the grace to deal with the demon, but the simple St. Paul was given it.

God loves simplicity.
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odhiambo
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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2011, 01:01:08 PM »

Thank you Shin.
Paul the Simple was not so simple . Smiley From Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints, I read this:
Paul was termed by Andrew " the ideal monk" and the so called Pride of the Desert, bearing with honor the title " the Simple"
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Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
Inspirational Quotes from the saints:
'If men but knew Thee, O my God!'
St. Ignatius of Loyola
“Late have I loved Thee,
 O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
 late have I loved Thee!......”
St. Augustine of Hippo
Shin
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« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2011, 02:20:43 PM »

"I'm going, I'm going, driven out by force, overcome by tyranny."

I think I've heard this complaint before, in more recent times... 
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Shin
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2012, 07:06:27 AM »

St. Paul the Simple, pray for us, and for the virtue of obedience.
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odhiambo
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2012, 02:04:13 AM »

Saint John the Dwarf had the same gift of obedience and humility as did Saint Paul the Simple.
 He, reportedly, unquestioningly, watered a stick stuck in the ground in obedience to his spiritual director. He continued to do so for about three years.
In the third year the stick is said to have flowered and bore fruit!  crucifix
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Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
Inspirational Quotes from the saints:
'If men but knew Thee, O my God!'
St. Ignatius of Loyola
“Late have I loved Thee,
 O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
 late have I loved Thee!......”
St. Augustine of Hippo
Shin
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2012, 03:09:40 AM »

Yes, and you know what it was called?

The fruit of obedience!

 Grin
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odhiambo
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2012, 04:47:29 AM »

Yes, and you know what it was called?

The fruit of obedience!

 Grin

Wow, how very apt  crucifix
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Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
Inspirational Quotes from the saints:
'If men but knew Thee, O my God!'
St. Ignatius of Loyola
“Late have I loved Thee,
 O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
 late have I loved Thee!......”
St. Augustine of Hippo
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« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2012, 08:53:41 AM »

Apt indeed!   Smiley
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