Saint Pachomius is a 4th-century saint whose name is barely known. His feast day is May 15th. St Pachomius is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Coptic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches.
Pachomius was born in Egypt during the era of the desert hermits. Even as a child, he pursued religious life and fasted rigorously. Pachomius, when a teenager, was conscripted unwillingly into the Roman Army; he traveled down the Nile arriving at Thebes, where local Christians brought refreshments to the ill-treated Army conscripts. Pachomius met these Christians who did “all manner of good.. treating everyone with love for the sake of the God of heaven.” They made a lasting impression on Pachomius. Upon being released from the army, he was converted and baptized.
In search of a deepening in his faith, Pachomius visited an elderly desert hermit, Palaemon, who turned Pachomius away perfunctorily. It says in the Benedictine Rule, one who wishes entry must knock perseveringly and determinedly. Pachomius did! Palaemon, by then an old monk/hermit, was rewarded at the end of his days with a studious devotee. Pachomius submitted to Paleomon’s teachings and wisdom.
Later, more than 100 monks came to encircle Pachomius and learn from him, prompting Pachomius, drawing on his military experience, to write down a rule for living in community. Both St. Anthony and St. Benedict drew from this cenobitic/communal Rule. The Rule sought to balance prayer with manual work, communal life with solitude. Each of the hermits could order his day within these guidelines. However, the heart and soul of Pachomius’ Rule was compassion and love for the brothers and an endless stream of forgiveness, the central requirements of successful communal life. During Pachomius’ lifetime, nine monasteries and two nunneries were established with hundreds of monks in Palestine, Syria, North Africa, and even Western Europe following his guidance; Pachomius was called Abba, Father from which the present-day word Abbot derives.
A story from this period of Pachomius’ life tells of his friendship with a crocodile. According to tradition, the crocodile ferried Pachomius across the Nile on his back whenever required.
Like Pachomius, let us search determinedly and doggedly for our call and place in the divine order, whatever our station. May our lives be filled with compassion, love, and endless forgiveness. At Pachomius’ death in 346 at age 56, an estimated 5000 monks and nuns had followed his teaching and example.