that angels carried her body to Mount Sinai where a monastery and church were laterbuilt by the Emperor Justinian.
Today, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, along with Mt.
Sinai, is a well-visited tourist site.Bob joined us on several such visits, always making the climb up Mt. Sinai and visitingthe famous church which stands at the traditional site of the burning bush seen byMoses. The monastery, which is located nearby, houses precious manuscripts of EarlyChristianity, awaiting scholarly exploration.
Many other saints mark the development of Christianity in Egypt, but none were as
important as Saint Anthony in Bob’s
judgment. He is often called the “Father of theMonks” and is
credited, along with his colleague, Saint Pachomius, with the founding ofChristian monasticism. The monastic way of life
attracted Bob’s attention so th
at hismany visits to the Holy Land and Egypt included visits to such monasteries as St.
Mar Saba in Israel, St. Catherine’s in the Sinai, and St. Anthony’s
inEgypt. Hundreds of such monasteries are scattered throughout the Middle East andstand as testimony to a very special Christian lifestyle. Yet, it is Egypt that is consideredto be the heart of the monastic idea.St. Anthony, away from the distractions of city and society, established a hermitage inthe Egyptian wilderness in A.D. 305. Over time, a variety of types emerged with nocentral orders, thus maintaining themselves as autonomous institutions. The size of themonasteries varied; some owned land and engaged in commercial interests, whileothers, being small, restricted themselves to a mere hermitage. The periods followingSt. Anthony show that two basic types of monasteries existed in Egypt: the hermit styleand the communal life style. Regardless of style, the Monks took vows of chastity andpoverty, practiced fasting, provided services to nearby communities, and secured almsfor the poor.
It was St. Anthony’s lifestyle that attracted Bob’s attention.
Anthony’s parents died
when he was only 18 years of age, leaving
him with the family’s belongings. At church
he heard the words
of Jesus, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions
andgive to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then
come, follow me” (Matthew
19:2). As a result, Anthony sold what property he had and gave most of the money tothe poor. The remaining amount was given to his sister who went to live in a communityof holy women.After much prayer and fasting, he went to a cave to live the life of a hermit. Others joined him and he became their spiritual mentor in the life of an ascetic. There was abrief time following that he went to Alexandria and ministered to prisoners, but beforelong he was back in the desert to his simple life in work and prayer. The basic monasticgarb was his creation and was represented as an all-purpose robe of white linenfastened about the waist with a leather belt. He died at the age of 105 years. During
journey to Egypt, he spent time visiting the St. Anthony Monasteryand the few monks who carry on in the tradition of their saint.