Following such interesting discussion of the necessity of monasticism, I offer a small story from the life of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos in which he comments on the spiritual wisdom of his peasant father (a married man). Truly, we are all called to different stations in life, but in every place, those who love God and seek Him, find Him and with God, they find wisdom.
This excerpt is from the Elder Sophrony’s St. Silouan the Athonite.
Young, strong, handsome, and by this time prosperous, too, Simeon [later to become the monk Silouan] revelled in life. He was popular in the village, being good-natured, peaceable and jolly, and the village girls looked on him as a man they would like to marry. He himself was attracted to one of them and, before the question of marriage had been put, what so often happens befell late one summer evening.
Next morning, as they were working together, his father said to him quietly,
‘Where were you last night, son? My heart was troubled for you?’
The mild words sank into Simeon’s soul, and in later life when he recalled his father the Staretz [elder] would say,
‘I have never reached my father’s stature. He was absolutely illiterate – he even used to make mistakes in the Lord’s Prayer which he had learned by listening in church; but he was a man who was gentle and wise.’
They were a large family – father, mother, five sons and two daughters – all living in affection together. The elder boys worked with their father. One Friday they were out harvesting and it was Simeon’s turn to cook the midday meal. Forgetting that it was Friday, he prepared a dish of pork for their lunch, and they all ate of it. Six months later, on a feast-day in winter, Simeon’s father turned to him with a gentle smile and said,
‘Son, do you remember how you gave us pork to eat that day in the fields? It was a Friday. I ate it but, you know, it tasted like carrion.’
‘Whyever didn’t you tell me at the time?’
‘I didn’t want to upset you, son.’
Recalling such incidents from his life at home, the Staretz would add,
‘That is the sort of staretz I would like to have. He never got angry, was always even-tempered and humble. Just think – he waited six months for the right moment to correct me without upsetting me!’