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The Desert Monks - II

The Hermit Macarius Saves an Innocent Man

Hugh O'Reilly
In the History of the Monks of the Desert written in the 4th century, we are told about two monks, both with the name Macarius, who lived in deep solitude in the deserts past Mount Nitria, rivaling each other in abstinence and wisdom. One was an Egyptian by race and a disciple of the blessed St. Anthony of the Desert, the other was of Alexandria. This story is told of Macarius the Egyptian.

Marcarius the egyptian

The accused man sought refuge in the cave of St. Macarius, renowned for his holiness

At a certain time in the neighboring countryside a murder was committed and the crime was fastened on an innocent man. In face of this calumny, he fled for refuge to the cave of Macarius. He was followed closely by his persecutors, who accused the frightened man of the crime and declared that the life of the monk himself was in peril unless he handed over the murderer to the law.

But this supposed culprit swore on the Sacraments that he was innocent of that man's blood. And as the contention continued, on this side and that, the holy Macarius spoke, asking where the one who was reported murdered was buried.

When they had told him the place, he set out for that site with all the company that had come to capture the man. There, on his knees he invoked the name of Christ, and said to those who stood by: "Now shall the Lord show if the guilty man is indeed this one whom you have accused."

And, lifting up his voice, he called the dead man by name.

And when the one he had summoned answered from the sepulcher, Macarius said to him: "I charge thee by the faith of Christ, tell us now if it was by this man who bears the blame that you were slain."

Then the voice from the grave answered clearly that it was not by him that he had been slain.

In amazement all present fell to the ground. Then, at the feet of the holy monk, they began to beg him to ask the dead man who it was who had slain him.

But the Holy Macarius answered: "I shall not ask this thing. It is enough for me that the innocent goes free. It is not for me to deliver the guilty."

nitria desert

The mountains of the Nitria Desert


Blason de Charlemagne
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Based upon Anonymous, The Desert Fathers, trans. Helen Waddell,
New York: Sheed & Ward, 1942, pp. 75-76.
Posted August 3, 2018

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