Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prayer, Action, Advocacy

There is something for everyone in the life of Saint Shenoute the Archmandrite, whose feast day is today.

There contemplative types and active types. Saint Shenoute teaches us that praying and doing are integrated in authentic Christian life.

Shenoute was always a man of prayer. He was recognized as a spiritual prodigy by his uncle, Saint Pigol, as early as age 8. Giving his lunch to a shepherd, he'd spend the day in fasting and prayer.

As an adult was archmandrite (leader) of the White Monastery near present-day Sohag. Under his leadership the monastery went from 30 aging monks to a vital community of 2,200. He also founded a women’s monastery, which grew to 1,800 nuns. I can hardly get 30 people to a youth meeting, even armed with the Verizon Network ("CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?")

Effective leadership begins with inner depth.

Beyond the walls of his heart and his monastery, he was an active humanitarian. He often came to the aid of poor Egyptian peasants. As their advocate, He often left the monastery to chastise those who were oppressing them. He once risked his life obtain freedom for captives from the hands of Blemmyes warriors. He even appealed on behalf of the peasants to Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I.

In every way he was a man of prayer, action, and advocacy.
Ref: Besa, Life of Shenoute, trans. D.H. Bell (Cistercian Publications, 1983)

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