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At the beginning of Christianity, martyrdom was sought for by most Christians for several reasons:  firstly, dying as a martyr was living the Gospel to the full.  As such, martyrdom was considered as the fastest, the shortest and the surest way to go to heaven.  And, secondly, martyrdom was the most effective witnessing to the faith.  

When the persecution of the Church ceased around the 4th century, Christians embraced the alternative to martyrdom which Christ, Himself, also established. . .the monastic life.  The monastic life, therefore, became the next shortest, fastest and surest way to save one's soul.  The first monks, therefore, were mere laymen and laywomen who wished to live the Gospel SERIOUSLY; so they did what the Gospel enjoined: to sell everything, give everything to the poor, and follow Christ.   A Christian who did not obey this gospel injunction was not taking "living the gospel" seriously.  

By this "detachment of the world," the first Christian monks witnessed to the fact that man is in this world NOT for pleasure or success but to WORSHIP GOD and prepare himself for the world to come.  These monks led "seemingly useless lives'" but history showed that they were the pillars of the Church and the light and the salt of the earth and the champions of the Catholic Faith.  There was Basil and the two Gregories, John Chrysostom, Martin of Tours, Augustine and Jerome.  Most of them were holy bishops because they were first holy monks.  This teaching was so clear to the first Christians that St. Augustine, as bishop of Hippo, demanded that his diocesan priests live as monks.  




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