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Saints This Month - 5 October : Bl. St. John the Dwarf

Saturday, October 17, 2009
John Kolobos or John the Dwarf is one of the legendary desert fathers. As a young man he decided to go to the monastic wilderness of Skete, in Egypt, to live a life of prayer and toil. He was assigned to the saintly hermit Pambo. He was given a walking stick and St. Pambo ordered him to plant it and water it everyday. John followed his instructions and watered the stick every day for three years even though the river was 12 miles away. After three years of this bizarre exercise of obedience buds began to appear on the stick. Over the year leaves and finally fruit began to appear. His mentor picked the fruit and offered it to John saying "eat the fruit of obedience".

John now lived a life of solitude and prayer but his holiness became known and, as so often happens with these holy hermits, men came to follow his way of life. A monastery began to form around St. John's Tree of Obedience. Even the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus, came to see this "angel on earth" and the community that had developed around him. The Patriarch ordained him a priest and made him abbot.

Abba John had to leave the monastery in 395 AD after Berber raiders attacked Skete. He led his monks across the Nile to where St. Antony had resided and continued a life of prayer and contemplation. On his rare visits to the nearby villages he worked many miracle and brought many to Christ.

As he neared the end of his life his disciples asked for a final lesson. This spiritual giant sighed and said " I never followed my own will; nor did I teach another what I had not practised myself". He died soon after and his soul was seen carried to Heaven by angels. In 515 his monks were able to return to the original monastery and brought his body with them. The monastery was abandoned in the 17th century but the Tree of Obedience still stands in the deserted monastery of St. John in the Nitrian desert and is still venerated by the Copts.

Mark Davoren


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