There are saints we know a great deal about. That’s especially true of modern saints like St. Innocent of Alaska or St. Maria of Paris. But there are saints who lived many centuries ago that we also know a lot about. These tend to be saints who were bishops or kings. Nevertheless, we know enough about them that we could write a proper modern biography.
There are saints that we know very little about. We might know their name, perhaps when and where they lived, or how they died. St. Phanourios is one such saint. He’s a popular saint, but we don’t know any more about him than can be gleaned from a single old icon that brought back his memory long after he had been forgotten.
And then there is the Uncondemning Monk.
What We Don’t Know about the Uncondemning Monk
We know that he was a monk. But we don’t know where he was a monk, or when. We remember him as the Uncondemning Monk because we don’t even know his name.
But we celebrate his memory every year on March 30, which is likely (but not certainly) the anniversary of his death.
And it’s his death that we remember him for.
In life, he was a terrible monk. He was lazy and undisciplined. He didn’t keep the fasts; he wasn’t much at prayer. His brother monks expected him to be taken from the monastery straight to Hell when he died.
And yet, as he lay dying, his face shone with joy.
His brother monks asked him why. He told them that he’d seen angels with a sheet of paper on which were listed all of his many sins. He told the angels, “God told us not to judge, so that we wouldn’t be judged. I have never judged anyone in my life, and I pray that God in his mercy won’t judge me.”
On hearing that, he said, the angels ripped the paper to shreds.
The other monks thought about his words, and were filled with wonder.
That’s all we know about him. But it is enough.
St. Moses the Black: How a murderous highway robber became an icon of humility and self-control.
In this family, we don’t judge: What I’ve learned about judging others from the lives of the saints.
St. Dorotheos of Gaza on what God hates most: Abba Dorotheos of Gaza was a 6th century monk whose teachings echo through the centuries, influencing writers like John Donne and C.S. Lewis.
Books by Charlotte Riggle
Catherine’s Pascha shares the joy of Pascha through the eyes of a child. Find it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow is filled with friendship, prayer, sibling squabbles, a godparent’s story of St. Nicholas, and snow. Lots and lots of snow. Find it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
In The Grace of Being There, women who are, or have been, single mothers share stories of their relationships with saints who were also single mothers. Charlotte’s story of the widow of Zarephath highlights the virtue of philoxenia. Find it on Amazon or Park End Books.