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The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers Volumes 1 and 2 by Saint Athanasius Of Alexandria

AND we also saw many other fathers and monks in several places throughout Egypt who used to work mighty deeds and miracles, but they were so many in number that we cannot mention them all, and we therefore only narrate a few things out of many. For what shall we say of the upper part of the Thebaïd, namely that [which is near] Syene, wherein live many wonderful men, and countless monks, who lead lives which are wholly beyond the nature of ordinary men? For at the present time they raise the dead, and, like Peter, they walk upon the water, and, to this very day, everything which our Redeemer performed by His saints is performed by these holy men. Now because of the great danger which we should run of thieves and barbarians falling upon us, we did not dare to go up the Nile any further to the south than Lycus, and therefore could not see the holy men who were there. Now we were not able to know even the fathers of whom we have spoken above without toil and tribulation, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that we were able to narrate their histories, for in order to do this we had to suffer much, and we were within a very little of having to endure many tribulations; but at length we were worthy to see these men. For on seven occasions we were delivered, and on the eighth evil came not nigh unto us, because, at all times, God protected us.

On the first occasion we nearly perished of hunger and thirst whilst we were wandering about in the desert [without food] for five days and five nights. On the second occasion we fell among savage, rugged mountains until our feet were pierced by the stones, and we suffered very great pain, and very nearly had to yield up our souls. On the third occasion we sank in the mud several times up to our backs, and there was none to help [us], and we cried out the words of the blessed David, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come even unto my soul, I have sunk into a dark abyss, wherein is no place on which to stand. Save me from the mire that I sink not” (Psalm 69:1, 2). On the fourth occasion a flood of many waters burst upon us at the period of the inundation of the Nile, and we walked about in the water, and we sank down very nearly to the nostrils [of the animal which we rode], and we cried out and said, “Drown us not, O Lord, in a whirlpool of waters, and let not the abyss swallow us up, and let not the pit close its mouth over us” (Psalm 69:14, 15). On the fifth occasion we fell in with some river thieves whilst we were walking along on the river banks to go into the city of Dekaplîôs, and they pursued us and sought to capture us, until very little breath was left in our nostrils, for they chased us for a distance of ten miles. On the sixth occasion we were sailing on the Nile when the boat capsized and sank under us. On the seventh occasion we were arriving at Lake Mareotis, and we were cast up on a small desert island, where the papyrus plant groweth, and we passed there three whole days and nights under the open sky in severe cold and with the rain falling upon us; now the season was the days of the Epiphany.

The story of the eighth occasion may be superfluous, but it is helpful. For when we were going to Nitria we passed a great deep place in one of the fields, which was full of water, and after the waters had run off the fields several crocodiles remained therein; now three very large crocodiles were stretched out on the edge of the pool, and we drew nigh to them that we might see them, because we thought they were dead. But they ran after us very fast, and we cried out with a loud voice, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, spare our souls,” whereupon the crocodiles, as if they had been driven away from us by angels, cast themselves into the water. And we made our way to Nitria with all possible haste, and as we went we meditated upon the words of the righteous man Job, who said, “Seven times He shall deliver thee from tribulation, and on the eighth evil shall not draw nigh unto thee” (Job 5:19). Therefore we gave thanks unto our Lord, who had redeemed us out of all tribulations, and had made manifest unto us great and marvellous revelations by the hands of his believing saints and monks.

Here end the Triumphs of the Blessed Fathers








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