The Communion of Saints: St. Pishoy

saint-bishoy2The next Desert Father, St. Pishoy, is a rather under-recognized saint, especially in the Western Church, but I find him to be one of the more inspiring and exemplary saints in this time period. St. Pishoy was born around 320 in Shansa, northern Egypt. He was the youngest of seven brothers, and was of very poor health as a child. The story goes that an angel appeared to his mother, asking her to dedicate one of her sons to the Lord. She tried to look past the weak and frail Pishoy to give the Lord one of her stronger sons, but the angel told her that the Lord had indeed chosen Pishoy to be his disciple.

Pishoy grew up a man of faith, and left to enter the wilderness around the age of twenty. She settled in Skete, which would become one of the centers of monastic life in the Nitrian Desert. It was there that he learned the ways of the monastic life under a man named Pambo (First Pishoy and now Pambo! And you thought Chrysogonus was a weird name!).

Pishoy became a hermit, and was famous for his spirituality, kindness, wisdom, and simplicity of life. Many of the hermits nearby would come to meet with him regularly for counsel, causing him to eventually form the Monastery of St. Pishoy (the name didn’t come until later, obviously), which still exists in Skete today.

As we will hear in the coming days after Easter, the disciples of Jesus encountered the Risen Jesus in a number of ordinary ways. St. Mary Magdalene encountered him in the garden outside his tomb, the two disciples met him on the road to Emmaus, and the Eleven encountered him cooking breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. St. Pishoy is also known for his encounters with the Risen Christ, again under ordinary circumstances.

On one occasion, as Pishoy’s fellow monks were going to prayer in the monastery, there was an old visiting monk who was calling for their help. All the monks ignored him on their way to prayer, but St. Pishoy saw him and generously helped him return to his room. He then washed the old man’s feet, imitating the gift of Christ to his apostles at the Last Supper. It was then that the old man revealed his true identity as the Risen Christ, filling St. Pishoy with the joy of the Resurrection.

I think the life of St. Pishoy is a reminder for us during the season of Easter. We recognize that although we formally celebrate Easter this Sunday, we are invited to welcome the Risen Christ into our midst every day, through prayer and acts of love, especially in our brothers and sisters who are weak, poor, or lonely. As we celebrate the joy of Easter, let us continue to celebrate by recognizing the presence of the Risen Christ in others!

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