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Saint Moses

Saint Moses
  • Century: 4th & 5th Century
  • Patronage: Africa, Non-Violence
  • Feast Day: December 18th

St. Moses was an ascetic monk and priest in Egypt in the fourth century, and a notable Desert Father.  He was a slave of the government official in Egypt who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder.  He became the leader of a gang of bandits, who roamed the Nile Valley, spreading terror and violence.  He was seen as a large and imposing figure. 

On one occasion, Moses was prevented from carrying out a robbery, due to a barking dog.  He swore vengeance on the owner.  Moses swam the river toward the owner’s hut, with weapons in his mouth.  The owner, again alerted, hid and the frustrated Moses took some of his sheep to slaughter.  Moses knew had had to hide from the authorities, so he took shelter with some monks in a colony in the desert.  The dedication of their lives, as well as their peace and contentment, influenced Moses deeply.  He soon gave up his old way of life, and became a Christian.  He was baptized and joined the monastic community at Scetes. 

He had a tough time adjusting to regular monastic discipline, and his desire for adventure remained with him.  He was attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, and fighting back, overpowered the intruders.  He dragged them to the chapel where the other monks were praying.  He told the brothers that he didn’t think it Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them.  The overwhelmed robbers repented, converted, and joined the community themselves. 

St. Moses was always fearful, that he wasn’t good enough.  When a brother committed a fault and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend.  He was called again to the meeting, so he took a leaking jug filled with water and carried it on his shoulder.  When he arrived at the meeting, the others asked why he was carrying the jug.  He replied, “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another”.  Hearing this, the assembled brothers instantly forgave the monk who had done wrong. 

At the age of 75, in 405, word came that a group of bandits planned to attack the monastery.  The brothers wanted to defend themselves, but Moses forbade it.  He told them to retreat, rather than take up weapons.  He and seven others remained behind and greeting the invaders with open arms, but all eight were martyred by the bandits. 

Practical Take Away

St. Moses was a recluse that spent his early days spreading terror and violence as a robber.  While hiding from authorities he took shelter with a group of monks in the desert.  He was so impressed with peace and the orderly life they lived, he converted, was baptized, and joined the monks.  He spent his life trying to serve the Church as a Christian, helping all those he could.