The Monastic Reaction: The Spread of the Monastic Ideal (Part 3)

The History of Christianity #105

Our History of Christianity Scripture passage today is 2 Peter 3:9 which reads: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Symeon the New Theologian. He said: “Provided they live a worthy life, both those who choose to dwell in the midst of noise and hubbub and those who dwell in monasteries, mountains and caves can achieve salvation. Solely because of their faith in Him God bestows great blessings on them. Hence those who because of their laziness have failed to attain salvation will have no excuse to offer on the day of judgment. For He who promised to grant us salvation simply on account of our faith in Him is not a liar.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Monastic Reaction: The Spread of the Monastic Ideal (Part 3)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

When the bishopric of Tours became vacant, the populace wanted to elect Martin to that position. The story goes that some of the bishops present at the election opposed such an idea, arguing that Martin was usually dirty, dressed in rags, and disheveled, and that his election would damage the prestige of the office of bishop. No agreement had been reached when it was time to read the Bible, and the person assigned for that task was nowhere to be found. Then one of those present took the book and began reading where it fell open: “By the mouth of babes and infants, thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger”. The crowd took this to be a direct message from heaven. Martin, the filthy and unseemly man whom the bishops scorned, had been chosen by God to silence the bishops. Without further ado, Martin was elected bishop of Tours.

But the new bishop was not ready to abandon his monastic ways. Next to the cathedral, he built a small cell where he devoted all his free time to the monastic life. When his fame was such that he could find no peace in that cell, he moved back to the outskirts of the city, and from there he would carry on his pastoral tasks.


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