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To look at the exterior life of the desert dwellers is to admire them but rashly judging that their life was useless, if not out of date.  To understand the interior life of these early Christians is to agree that they, after the apostles, were the pillars of the Church AND that they were truly the first Christians who lived the gospel.  They were ". . .the true servants of God. . .while dwelling on earth. . .they lived as true citizens of heaven."  People and nations depended on the prayers of these monks.  It was clear to all that these desert dwellers KEPT THE WORLD IN BEING  and through them "human life is preserved and honored by God."  

The monks, with their prayers, were the defenders and guardians of world peace.  They were like trees that purified the atmosphere by their presence.  The hermit was specially a focus of spiritual power for his neighbour, a point of appeal in judgments, a peacemaker among men; he was a friend  of God, one who had influence at the court of heaven.  He was good luck for those living near him.  This was the opinion of the world about monks; but this was not the monk's opinion of himself.  For the monk, he is a poor man and a sinner.  

The monk was "guardian of the wall";  he was the champion of society in spiritual matters.  Radically withdrawing from society and its concerns, he saved society by literally making the desert bloom. A monastery in Fayyum sent shiploads of wheat and clothing for the poor of Alexandria because there were no poor around the monastery.  

It is for the above reasons that the monks were "the guardians of the walls" of the Catholic Church.    

Historia Monachorum




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