January 15: St. Paul the Hermit
When St. Paul died at the age of 113, he had a long life to look back on. It must have given him much joy and peace at the moment of his death. This is why:
Paul was born into a Christian family in the year 229. They lived in Thebes, Egypt. Paul's parents showed him by their own lives how to love God and worship him with one's whole heart. Paul was certainly very sad to lose both his parents when he was just fifteen years old.
A few years later, in 250, Emperor Decius started a cruel persecution of the Church. Paul hid in his friend's home, but he still was not safe. His brother-in-law was after his money and property. The man could easily betray him to the authorities. So Paul fled to the desert. He found a cave near a palm tree and a spring of fresh water. There he settled. He sewed palm branches together for clothes, and he lived on fruit and water.
Paul had intended to stay there only while the persecution lasted. But by the time it was over, he had fallen in love with the life of prayer. He felt so close to God. How could he give that up? He decided to stay in the desert and never return to his wealthy city life. Instead, he would spend his life praying daily for the needs of all people and performing penance for sin.
There was another holy hermit at the same time named Anthony. Anthony thought he was the only hermit. God showed Paul to him in a dream and told Anthony to go visit him.
Paul was so happy to see Anthony because he knew he was going to die in a few days. Anthony was sad because he did not want to lose his new friend so soon. But, as Paul predicted, he died on January 15, 342. Anthony buried him in a cloak that had belonged to St. Athanasius. Then Anthony took home and treasured the garment of palm leaves that Paul had been wearing. He never forgot his wonderful friend.
Although at times it may seem that we are all alone in our desire to follow Jesus, but we are able to have trust in Godís care for us. He will always make sure that we have the strength and support that we need.