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

AND whose life was one of spiritual excellence, and who had lived in a cave for sixty years. And he commanded me to live with him, and to lead a life of self-denial with him for a period of three years, so that the passions of the flesh might leave me. For the blessed Isidore knew that blessed old man, and he knew that his life was stern and severe, and he admonished me, saying, “When thou hast completed this period of three years, return unto me for the remainder of the doctrine of spiritual knowledge.” But I was unable to fulfil these three years with him, on account of a severe illness into which I fell, and so I departed from Dorotheos before the end of the period, and I returned to him that had brought me out, and entered his abode [that I might learn] the doctrine of the spirit.

Now the life of Dorotheos was one of exceedingly hard toil, and the manner thereof was severe, and his food was meagre and wretched, for he lived on dry bread. And he used to go round about in the desert by the side of the sea the whole day long in the heat of the noonday sun and collect stones with which he built cells, which he used to give unto the brethren who were unable to build [cells for themselves]; and he used to finish one cell each year. One day I said unto the holy man, “Father, why workest thou thus in thine old age? for thou wilt kill thy body in all this heat.” And he said unto me, “I kill it lest it should kill me.” He used to eat one small bread cake, which weighed about six ounces, each day, and a little bundle of green herbs; and he drank water by measure. What then? I know not. As God is my witness I never saw this man stretch out [his legs] and lie down as [men are] wont [to do]; and he never slept upon a bed of palm leaves, or upon anything else, but he used to work the whole night long weaving baskets made of palm leaves to provide himself with the daily bread which he required and food. Now I imagined at first that he used to work in this manner because I was present, and then I thought, “Peradventure it is only for my sake, and to show me how to perform such severe labours, that [he doeth this].” So I made enquiries of many of those who had been his disciples and who were then living by themselves and were emulating his spiritual excellencies, and I also asked others of his disciples who were living by his side if in very truth he always laboured in this wise, and they said unto me, “He hath held to this practice from his youth up, and he hath never been in the habit of sleeping according to what is right. In the daytime he never sleepeth willingly, but [sometimes] when he is working with his hands, or when he is eating, he closeth his eyes and is snatched away by slumber. As he sitteth working he eateth, and unless slumber overcame him [suddenly] he would never sleep at all. Many and many a time he is overcome by slumber while he is eating, and the morsel of bread falleth out of his mouth because he is overcome by drowsiness.” And when from time to time I used to urge him to sit down, or to throw himself upon a mat of palm leaves and to rest a little, he would answer and say unto me in a grieved manner, “If thou art able to persuade the angels to sleep, then thou wilt be able to persuade me.”

One day, towards the ninth hour, Dorotheos sent me to the fountain from which he drank water to fetch him some water, so that he might eat his meal, for he used to eat about this time, and when I had gone there I chanced to see a viper going down the well; and because of [my] fear I was unable to fill [the pitcher] with water, and I went back to him, and said unto him, “O father, we shall die, for I have seen a viper [going] down into the water.” Now when he heard [these words] he laughed reverently, and constrained himself, and he lifted up his face and looked at me not a little time, and he shook his head, and said unto me, “If it were to happen that Satan had the power to shew thee in every fountain an asp, or again to cast into them vipers, or serpents, or tortoises, or any other kinds of venomous reptiles, wouldst thou be able to do without drinking water entirely?” And when he had said these words unto me, he went forth and departed [to the fountain] and drew water, and brought [it back], and having made the sign of the Cross over it he straightway drank therefrom before he ate anything. And he constrained me to drink and said unto me, “Where the seal (or sign) of the Cross is, the wickedness of Satan hath no power to do harm.”

And this blessed man Isidore, the overseer of the hospital [in Alexandria], related unto me the following story, which is worthy of record, and he heard it from the blessed Anthony where he lived with him in the desert in the days of Emperor Maximinus, the prosecutor.








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