Today we give thanks to God for the life of St. Paul the Hermit. When he saw persecution coming upon the Christians during the mid third century, he fled the city in order to be able to persevere. His brother found out and turned him into the authorities, but St. Paul fled further into the desert trusting that God would provide. Originally he had intended to return when the persecution ended, but he ended up loving penance, prayer, and contemplation so much that he dedicated the remaining 90 years of his life (living to the age of 130) to this path of sanctification. His life is a surprising example of fortitude in the face of persecution that resulted in a very different kind of martyrdom. Leaving the world to live for Christ alone in the desert became a widespread phenomenon in Egypt.
When I lived in Laredo, we were always getting people who knocked on the door wanting to talk to someone. We even had visits, like many of you, from Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I think it was actually one of our brothers at the time who had run into some Mormons and invited them for a chat at the monastery. At any rate, I was the one who opened the door for this group of about six young men, early twenties at most, and had a brief conversation with them before the brother who had invited them arrived. They were all wearing name tags and as I examined them I chuckled aloud and said, “Hey, you all have the same first name!” The first name on all of their name tags was “Elder.” They just smiled at me and chuckled as well, about thirty seconds later I realized my error.