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Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Feast of St. Paul the First Hermit

Today the Holy Church calls to mind the life of St. Paul of Thebes, an Egyptian hermit and friend of St. Jerome, who is often called St. Paul the First Hermit.  Born c. 229 AD in Egypt, he was left an orphan at about the age of fifteen and hid during the persecution of the Church under Emperor Traj anus Decius.

At the age of twenty two he went to the desert to circumvent a planned effort by his brother in law to report him to authorities as a Christian and thereby gain control of his property. Paul soon found that the eremitical life was much to his personal taste, and so remained in a desert cave for the rest of his reportedly very long life. His contemplative existence was disturbed by St. Anthony, who visited the aged Paul. Anthony also buried Paul, supposedly wrapping him in a cloak that had been given to Anthony by St. Athanasius.

According to legend, two lions assisted Anthony in digging the grave. While there is little doubt that Paul lived, the only source for details on his life are found in the Vita Pauli written by St. Jerome and preserved in both Latin and Greek versions.

The biography of St. Paul as written by St. Jerome is preserved and available for reading online.

The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit (Latin: Ordo Fratrum Sancti Pauli Primi Eremitae) is a monastic order of the Roman Catholic Church, founded in Hungary during the 13th century. The Order's name is derived from the holy hermit who was canonized in 491 by Pope Gelasius I.  The coat of arms of the Order (pictured above) is taken from the example of St. Paul of Thebes.

Elements of the Coat of ArmsThe references to the traditions of the life of St. Paul, Hermit (by application)
The date palmSt. Paul the First Hermit produced clothing from the leaves of the palm tree
The fruit of the palm tree helped sustain the Hermit in the desert.
The Raven with a loaf of bread in its beakThis bird, through the grace of God, brought Half a loaf of bread to the Hermit everyday for 90 years
LionsTwo lions dug a grave for St. Paul, where he buried by St. Anthony the Great
After his death, a monastery taking him as its model was founded on Mount Sinai and still exists today.


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