"One single hour of repentance has brought her more than the penances of many who continue without showing such fervor in repentance."
We will continue today with our series on the "Holy Mothers," those ancient women saints and ascetics whose lives and teachings still speak to all
of us today. Our holy example today is St. Paesia, a prostitute from Alexandria, Egypt, whose life is found in the sayings of the Holy Father, St.
John the Dwarf.
This Holy Mother's life teaches us the meaning of true repentance.
BEGIN: The parents of a young girl died and she was left an orphan; she was called Paesia.
She decided to make her house a hospice for the use of the fathers of Scetis.
But in the course of time her resources were exhausted and she began to be in want. Some wicked men came to see her and turned her aside from her
aim. She began to live an evil life to the point of becoming a prostitute.
The fathers, learning this, were deeply grieved and they called John the Dwarf and said to him, "We have learned that this sister is living an evil
While she could she gave us charity, so now it is our turn to offer her charity and to go to her assistance.
Go to see her then and according to the wisdom that God has given you, put things right for her."
So Abba John went to see her and said to the old doorkeeper,
"Tell your mistress I am here." But she sent him away saying, "From the start you ate her goods and see how poor she is now." Abba John said,
"Tell her I have something that will be very helpful to her."
The doorkeeper's children mocked him saying, "What have you to give her that you want to meet her?" He replied, "How do you know what I am going
to give her?"
The old woman went up and spoke to her mistress about him. Paesia said to her, "Those monks are always goinig about around the Red Sea and finding
pearls." Then she got ready and said to the doorkeeper, "Please bring him to me."
As he was coming up, she got ready for him and lay down on the bed. Abba John entered and sat beside her. Looking into her eyes,
he said, "What have you got against Jesus that you behave like this?"
When she heard this she became completely rigid. Then Abba John bent his head and began to weep copiously.
She asked him, "Why are you crying, Father?" He raised his head, then lowered it again weeping and said to her, "I see Satan playing in your face,
how should I not weep?"
Hearing this she said, "Father, is it possible to repent?" He replied, "Yes." She said, "Take me wherever you wish." "Let us go," he said and
she got up and went with him.
Abba John noticed that she did not make any arrangements about her house; he said nothing but he was surprised.
When they reached the desert the evening was drawing on.
He made a little pillow in the sand and marked it with the sign of the cross, saying, "Sleep here." Then he did the same for himself a little
further on, said his prayers and lay down.
Waking in the middle of the night, he saw a shining path reaching from heaven to her and he saw the angels of God bearing away her soul.
When he saw that she was dead, he threw himself downward on the ground praying to God and he heard this: "One single hour of repentance has brought
her more than the penances of many who continue without showing such fervor in repentance."
from Sr. Benedicta Ward, "Harlots of the Desert," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1987), pp. 77-78
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