Feast Day : May 9 or May 14
Pachomius was the first monk to organize hermits into groups and compose a rule for them, thus preceding St. Anthony, who is regarded as the founder of monasticism. He was born about 290 near Thebes, Egypt, and was inducted into the Roman legions at age 20. In 313 he was discharged from the military and converted to Christianity. After being baptized, he became a disciple of a famous hermit, Palemon, and took the habit. The two of them led a life of extreme austerity and total dedication to God. They combined manual labor with unceasing prayer both day and night. Pachomius was praying alone in the desert of Tabenna when an angelic figure spoke to him and told him to found a monastery according to the rule the angel would give. In 318, Palemon helped him to build what would become the first Christian cloister on the banks of the Nile at Tabennisi. Palemon stayed himself for a while. A wall surrounded the humble structure as a symbol of the monks’ separation from the world, and no stranger was allowed beyond a certain point, leaving “the inner sanctum” unsullied. Soon some 100 monks joined Pachomius, and he organized them on principles of community living. Pachomius’s “Angelic Rule,” one of the major monuments of early Christian literature, was innovative in one major fact: It was a binding commandment, akin to a law. After living as a novice for a number of years, each monk accepted the rule as an unalterable canon of life. Pachomius established 10 other monasteries for men and two nunneries for women. By the time of his death in 346, there were 7,000 monks in his houses. His order lasted in the East until the 11th century. SS. Basil and Benedict drew from his Rule in composing their own more famous ones. Pachomius is venerated in the Western, Eastern and Coptic Churches.