Hello everyone. I have a deep respect for those great saints of the past who lived very simple lives and who spent their entire lives praying to Jesus and reflecting upon the Gospel.
I also respect those saints who fast and abstain from over-indulging in any activity of this world.
However, there is one aspect of these monastic/ermetical firgures that I find disturbing. I have noticed, in reading the lives of many early and medieval saints, that many of these cenobites purposely cause themselves great discomfort and even pain. For example, last night I was reading Butler’s life of the saints, and in one entry it talked about these saints in Egypt who ate only one slice of bread a day and who only slept one hour each evening. Another example are those saints who would sit in uncomfortable positions for hours on end, or who would live on the tops of pillars. Some saints even went so far as to whip themselves, and others wore prickly belts under their garments.
Now, I understand that one of the major goals of monastic life is to distance oneself from situations of sin as much as possible, and to completely devote oneself to the service of God. And I understand that, in inflicting pain upon oneself, one probably is less inclined to sin. However, I wonder if some of these saints went to far in their asceticism and rather than avoid sin, sinned in the fact that they did not take into consideration the well-being of their bodies, which, although dangerous to the soul, nontheless should be cared for, since they are given to us by God. I know that one should primarily focus on the well-being of the soul, but shouldn’t one also not mutilate the body if one doesn’t have to mutilate the body?
I know that the early Church frowned on those men who castrated themselves, and I believe that even one of the ecumenical councils bars castrates from serving in ecclesiastical positions. I am also pretty sure that the Church today condemns self-flaggelation.
Any comments are appreciated!