Born in Egypt around the year 292, the future saint was the son of pagan parents. They never-the-less instilled in him good character and a prudent and sensible approach to life. He received an excellent secular education and had all the needed tools for success. However, during a period of turmoil and civil war, it was a common practice for the Roman army to conscript young men against their will. Pachomius, at age twenty-one, was caught up in one such “recruitment” drive. He and several other young men were sent by ship to Thebes, a city in ancient Greece.
The Christians of Thebes recognized the harsh treatment and barren existence the young soldiers endured and treated them with compassion. Daily they brought food and comfort, which impressed Pachomius and the others. He vowed to pursue Christianity once free of the Roman army, and in 314, was converted and baptized.
For seven years, he studied with the hermit Palaemon and then set out on his own. Christian asceticism was traditionally eremitic, described as individual male or female monastics who lived in individual huts or caves, and occasionally gathered for worship services. Saint Pachomius heard a voice direct him to build a dwelling for hermits to live in community. Known as the Father of Spiritual Communal Monastic Life, he formed cenobitic communities, where male and female monastics held property in common under the leadership of an abbot or abbess.
Pachomius passed from this life May 9th, 348AD, during an epidemic. He left a legacy of eight monasteries and several hundred monks that followed his rule. Within a generation, cenobitic practices stretched from Egypt to Syria, North Africa and even Western Europe. The number of cenobitic monastics is said to have reached 7,000.