The call in the desert can be heard in all times and places

Lidia Dudkiewicz

During the Sixth Youth Day, held at Jasna Gora, we could hear the question: – Do you know what these fathers and brothers in white habits, who are here around all the time, are called? They are called the Pauline Monks, the sons of St Paul the First Hermit. The sons of the Holy Hermit and hermits themselves– what a desert we have made for them! These words were spoken by the Holy Father John Paul II on 15 August 1991 to over one million and a half young people, who laid a real siege to Jasna Gora and the Pauline fathers and brothers living in the monastery. Every year millions of pilgrims go through the gates of the Jasna Gora Shrine – in 2007 there were 4.5 million people. They visit Jasna Gora and other sanctuaries and monasteries where the dialogue between ordinary life and eternity takes place.

Cardinal Wojtyla about hermits

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla called Saint Paul the First Hermit a hero of all ultimate people’s decisions. In his speech delivered on 15 January 1975 to the students, members of the Students Centre in the Skalka Church in Krakow [literary translation: Church on the rock), he said that St Paul the First Hermit had created a forerunner of religious calling to which the monastic family of the Pauline Fathers was dedicated. In the above-mentioned speech, which was heard both by the Pauline monks from the religious desert at Skalka and the students in the carnival dancing Krakow, a question was asked, ‘What does the word ‘hermit’ mean?’– We all have some thoughts about this – Cardinal Wojtyla continued – a man living in the wilderness, a man who left the world and found himself in the desert. A hermit leaves the world in an extreme way but he does it not to condemn the world and show his disdain but he does it to open a full perspective of human vocation, the perspective through which our earthly living with all its aspects has its ultimate sense. A hermit’s life is a special charisma, an extraordinary calling. Cardinal Wojtyla explained that the world needed people who gave radical testimonies. – What does such a testimony express? – another question of Cardinal Wojtyla. – It expresses a perspective of human calling in general since nobody has been ultimately created for the world. We know well that we will pass away and leave the world. We cannot be rooted in it for eternity. We also know that we cannot fulfil ourselves in this world. Every human life, regardless of the measure of its success, is incomplete in the dimension of earthy life. There were also important words about the Pauline Order, which were spoken in the Skalka Church. – This is an order that has been rooted in the history of our Homeland, both through the Skalka Church in Krakow and through Jasna Gora, both through St Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr and Poland’s Patron, and through Fr Kordecki and the history of the siege but above all through Our Lady of Jasna Gora who is the Mother and Queen of our Homeland – Cardinal Karol Wojtyla said.

The Order marked by the depth of the desert

This year, namely on 15 January, the liturgical feast of St Paul the First Hermit; the Pauline Year to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the approval of the Pauline Order by the Holy See was opened. However, the Order has actually existed for eight ages. It originated in Hungary, thanks to the efforts of Bishop Bartholomew of Pecs, and then of Blessed Euzebius of Esztergom who joined two monastic-hermit’s communities in 1250. That new community became a model for all hermit’s and contemplative Pauline monasteries.
The spiritual profile of the order has changed throughout centuries. Because of various circumstances and challenges of the times the hermit’s character of the early community has changed into a contemplative-active one. The historical and pastoral factors can be clearly seen on the example of Jasna Gora to which in 1382 the Pauline monks were brought from Hungary by Prince Ladislaus of Opole. The Order was asked to guard the Miraculous Painting of Our Lady, which the Prince had brought from Belz. When the Pauline hermits settled on the rocky hill near Czestochowa believers began pilgriming there to worship the Mother of God, to pray in front of her picture and to confess their sins. The increasing numbers of pilgrims made the hermits open their gates and the Pauline monks began their pastoral ministry. Under those circumstances the hermits learnt to live among the crowds. The contemporary developing societies need more and more ‘the men of the desert’ who can help them enter God’s ways and who are their guides between earth and heaven. Through their continuous prayers and mortifications the contemporary hermits open heaven for us. They are the voices calling in this worlds’ desert as St Paul called in the desert in the 3rd century. He prayed with endurance in the Egyptian desert all his life and he prayed for the matters and people of his times. The celebrations of the Pauline Year will certainly give us many occasions to reach the source from which St Paul the First Hermit drew the water of spiritual life and to be alone with God in spite of the noise from the surrounding world.

The hermit

Saint Paul of Thebes, born in 228 AD, is said to be the first hermit in the history of the Church. When Paul was twenty years old the persecutions of Christians began. Paul left all he possessed and fled into the wilderness to live in a cave. The persecutions lasted two years but Paul was drawn by the silence of the desert so much that he decided to stay there for good. He spent 90 years in the sand of the desert. The Pauline monks chose St Paul the First Hermit as their main patron, i.e. the patriarch of the order. The tradition regards St Paul – man of the desert – as a special patron and guardian of pregnant women or women who want to have children. The hermit, who lived 113 years, takes special care for the youngest. Therefore, every January a special blessing of children is performed in all Pauline monasteries in the world at the end of the Novena to St Paul the First Hermit. During the celebration a priest approaches every child and blesses it. Traditionally, it is Bishop Antoni Dlugosz who blesses children at Jasna Gora. And the monks give children presents – pictures, sweets and fruits of the desert, i.e. dates and figs. The tradition was preserved in January 2008.

The Pauline Year lasts

Because of the opening of the Pauline Year the white fathers and brothers, who have got their desert in almost 70 places in the world, receive wishes and expressions of gratitude from all those whom they help to be united with God in the solitude of prayer and whom they support spiritually in their daily paths to heaven. The wishes most often concern constant growth in holiness as the most important thing for the monks and numerous vocations. We wholeheartedly wish them the same. On the occasion of the jubilee celebrations it is worth mentioning the content of the wishes, which Cardinal Wojtyla said in 1975 during a ‘Pauline’ meeting with the students at Skalka: – My Dear Ones, together with you I want to extend – using my presence on the feast of the holy Patriarch –best wishes to our Dear Guardians of Jasna Gora and Skalka so that the great spirit of their Patriarch St Paul revives their hearts, thoughts and wills, forms their entire Community, which is so dear to every Pole considering the impressive historic events to which the Pauline Order has been affiliated for many ages.

Return to the sources

Fr Izydor Matuszewski, General of the Order of St Paul the First Hermit, –
The 700th anniversary of the Order’s approval is an occasion to return to the sources. We need to return to the sources to drink pure water, not polluted by our civilization, under an Egyptian palm so that we can serve God’s people with new zeal and eagerness. The most urgent task for the Pauline monks is to build spiritual temples in the places where the white monks have been called to serve. I mean gathering people, especially in the Eastern European countries, where communism destroyed faith for years, and I mean building material churches so that believers could grow in their faith.
Saint Paul! You who are already in heaven,
look at your sons.
And draw us to you
by your effective prayers.
Lead us always on the way of virtue,
give us sure fear against evil,
so that we can worship Eternal God
with you for ever and ever.

From the hymn to St Paul the First Hermit

How to become a Pauline father or brother

If you feel that God is calling you to serve him and the Christian Community in our Order please contact
Vocations Director
O. Kordeckiego 2
Jasna Gora
42-225 Czestochowa

Postulancy is the first stage of the Pauline formation. It lasts six months during which candidates live in a monastery and verify their callings.

Novitiate is the second stage. Novices must be over 17 years old. The novitiate is a school of religious life and a test of one’s vocation. It lasts one year for candidates for priesthood and two years for brothers. The novitiate is located in the Pauline monastery in Our Lady of Lesniow Patroness of Families: Lesniowska 99, 42-310 Zarki, nowicjat@ .

Seminary studies – the formation for priests that lasts 6 years. The Major Seminary of the Pauline Order is in Krakow: Skaleczna 15, 31-065 Krakow, tel. (0-12) 421-74-18,

"Niedziela" 5/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: