Instance of an Excommunicated Martyr being cast out of the Ground

 [This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010.  Copyright as such.]


We read in the menées of the Greeks, on the 15th of October, that a monk of the Desert of Sheti, having been excommunicated by him who had the care of his conduct, for some act of disobedience, he left the desert, and came to Alexandria, where he was arrested by the governor of the city, despoiled of his conventual habit, and ardently solicited to sacrifice to false gods. The solitary resisted nobly, and was tormented in various ways, until at last they cut off his head, and threw his body outside of the city, to be devoured by dogs. The Christians took it away in the night, and having embalmed it and enveloped it in fine linen, they interred it in the church as a martyr, in an honorable place; but during the holy sacrifice, the deacon having cried aloud, as usual, that the catechumens and those who did not take the communion were to withdraw, they suddenly beheld the martyr's tomb open of itself, and his body retire into the vestibule of the church; after the mass, it returned to its sepulcher.

A pious person having prayed for three days, learnt by the voice of an angel that this monk had incurred excommunication for having disobeyed his superior, and that he would remain bound until that same superior had given him absolution. Then they went to the desert directly, and brought the saintly old man, who caused the coffin of the martyr to be opened, and absolved him, after which he remained in peace in his tomb.

This instance appears to me rather suspicious. 1. In the time that the Desert of Sheti was peopled with solitary monks, there were no longer any persecutors at Alexandria. They troubled no one there, either concerning the profession of Christianity, or on the religious profession—they would sooner have persecuted these idolaters and pagans. The Christian religion was then dominant and respected throughout all Egypt, above all, in Alexandria. 2. The monks of Sheti were rather hermits than cenobites, and a monk had no authority there to excommunicate his brother. 3. It does not appear that the monk in question had deserved excommunication, at least major excommunication, which deprives the faithful of the entry of the church, and the participation of the holy mysteries. The bearing of the Greek text is simply, that he remained obedient for some time to his spiritual father, but that having afterwards fallen into disobedience, he withdrew from the hands of the old man without any legitimate cause, and went away to Alexandria. All that deserves doubtlessly even major excommunication, if this monk had quitted his profession and retired from the monastery to lead a secular life; but at that time the monks were not, as now, bound by vows of stability and obedience to their regular superiors, who had not a right to excommunicate them with grand excommunication.


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