St John of Egypt

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Hermit. Born in Asyut, Egypt, in 304, St John was a carpenter. When he was 25 he went out into the desert to pray and was to became one of the most famous hermits of his time. For ten years he was the disciple of an elderly hermit. St John called him his 'spiritual father.' After the older monk's death, St John spent four or five years in various monasteries. Finally, he found a cave high in the rocks. The area was quiet and protected from the desert sun and winds. He divided the cave into three parts: a living room, a work room and a little chapel.

People in the area brought him food and other necessities. Many also came to seek his advice about important matters. The Emperor Theodosius I asked his advice twice, in 388 and in 392.

Saints Augustine and Jerome wrote about the holiness of St John. When so many people came to visit him, some became his disciples. They stayed in the area and built a hospice. St John had the gift of prophesy and was able to look into the souls of those who came to him.

He was also a healer. Even when John became famous, he remained humble and lived a very frugal life. He never ate before sunset. When he did eat, his food was dried fruit and vegetables. He never ate meat or cooked.

In old age he was visited by the historian Palladius. His account of their meeting exists to this day. John died in 394 at the age of 90.