11 Sep Saint Paphnutius, Bishop
Today is the feast day of Saint Paphnutius. Ora pro nobis.
We do not know the dates of his birth or death, but only of his works. The holy monk Paphnutius was an Egyptian who, after having spent several years in the desert under the direction of the great Saint Anthony, was made bishop in Upper Thebaid.
Bishop Paphnutius suffered tremendous persecution under the Emperor Maximinus II, but never renounced his faith. Bishop Paphnutius lived during the last great Christian persecution, during the reign of Roman Emperor Maximinus II. At that time, the emperor would capture clergymen and, if they would not renounce the faith, gouge out their right eyes and send them to almost certain death as mine laborers.
Through the grace of God, Bishop Paphnutius outlived Emperor Maximinus’ short reign, and was able to leave the mines and return to Egypt. When the persecution ended, these faithful “surviving” Christians were dubbed “confessors” for having confessed their faith even in the face of such costly consequences. Back in Egypt, Bishop Paphnutius set about rebuilding the region’s Church and congregations as a model pastor, actively fighting against the Arian heresy which began soon thereafter. He ministered to his flock and defended Orthodoxy until his death.
When peace was restored to the Church, Bishop Paphnutius returned to his diocese and his flock. The Arian heresy was entering into Egypt, and he was seen to be one of the most zealous defenders of the Catholic Faith. For his eminent sanctity and his glorious title of confessor, that is, one who had confessed the Faith before the persecutors and under torments, he was highly esteemed at the great Council of Nicea in 325. Constantine the Great, during the celebration of that synod, sometimes conferred privately with him in his palace, and never dismissed him without kissing respectfully the place which had once held the eye he had lost for the Faith.
Saint Paphnutius remained always in close union with Saint Athanasius, and accompanied him to the Council of Tyre in 355. We have no particular account of the death of Saint Paphnutius, but his name is recorded in the Roman Martyrology on the 11th of September.