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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

February 14

St. Maro, Abbot

        From Theodoret Philoth. c. 16. 22. 24. 30. Tillem. t. 12. p. 412. Le Quien, Oriens Christ, t. 3. p. 5. Jos. Assemani Bibl. Orient. t. 1. p. 497.

A.D. 433.

ST. MARO, made choice of a solitary abode on a mountain in the diocess of Syria and near that city, where, out of a spirit of mortification, he lived for the most part in the open air. He had indeed a little hut, covered with goat skins, to shelter him from the inclemencies of the weather; but he very seldom made use of it for that purpose, even on the most urgent occasions. Finding here a heathen temple, he dedicated it to the true God, and made it his house of prayer. Being renowned for sanctity, he was raised, in 405, to the dignity of priesthood. St. Chrysostom, who had a singular regard for him, wrote to him from Cucusus, the place of his banishment, and recommended himself to his prayers, and begged to hear from him by every opportunity. 1
  St. Zebinus, our saint’s master, surpassed all the solitaries of his time, with regard to assiduity in prayer. He devoted to this exercise whole days and nights, without being sensible of any weariness or fatigue: nay, his ardour for it seemed rather to increase than slacken by its continuance. He generally prayed in an erect posture; but in his old age was forced to support his body by leaning on a staff. He gave advice in very few words to those that came to see him, to gain the more time for heavenly contemplation. St. Maro imitated his constancy in prayer: yet he not only received all visitants with great tenderness, but encouraged their stay with him; though few were willing to pass the whole night in prayer standing. God recompensed his labours with most abundant graces, and the gift of curing all distempers, both of body and mind. He prescribed admirable remedies against all vices. This drew great multitudes to him, and he erected many monasteries in Syria, and trained up holy solitaries. Theodoret, bishop of Cyr, says, that the great number of monks who peopled his diocess were the fruit of his instructions. The chief among his disciples was St. James of Cyr, who gloried that he had received from the hands of Saint Maro his first hair-cloth.  2
  God called St. Maro to his Glory after a short illness, which showed, says Theodoret, the great weakness to which his body was reduced. A pious contest ensued among the neighbouring provinces about his burial. The inhabitants of a large and populous place carried off the treasure, and built to his honour a spacious church over his tomb, to which a monastery was adjoined, which seems to have been the monastery of St. Maro in the diocess of Apamea. 2  3
Note 1. S. Chrys. ep. 36. [back]
Note 2. It is not altogether certain whether this monastery near Apamea, or another on the Orontes, between Apamea and Emesa, or a third in Palmyrene, (for each of them bore his name,) possessed his body, or gave name to the people called Maronites. It seems most probable of the second, the abbot of which is styled primate of all the monasteries of the second Syria, in the acts of the second council of Constantinople, under the patriarch Mennas, in 536, and he subscribes first in a common letter to Pope Hormisdas, in 517. The Maronites were called so from these religious, in the fifth century, and adhered to the council of Chalcedon against the Eutychians. They were joined in communion with the Melchites or Loyalists, who maintained the authority of the council of Chalcedon. The Maronites, with their patriarch, who live in Syria, towards the sea-coast, especially about Mount Libanus, are steady in the communion of the Catholic church, and profess a strict obedience to the pope, as its supreme pastor; and such has always been the conduct of that nation, except during a very short time, that they were inveigled into the Greek schism; and some fell into Eutychianism, and a greater number into Nestorianism; they returned to the communion of the Catholic church under Gregory XIII. and Clement VIII. as Stephen Assemani proves (Assemani, Act. Mart. t. 2. p. 410.) against the slander of Eutychius in his Arabic Annals, which had imposed upon Renaudot. The Maronites keep the feast of St. Maro on the 9th, the Greeks on the 14th of February. The seminary of the Maronites at Rome, founded by Gregory XIII. under the direction of the Jesuits, have produced several great men, who have exceedingly promoted true literature, especially the Oriental; such as Abraham Eckellensis, the three Assemani, Joseph, Stephen Evodius, and Lewis, known by his judicious writings on the ceremonies of the church. The patriarch of the Maronites, styled of Antioch, resides in the monastery of Canabine, at the foot of Mount Libanus; he is confirmed by the pope, and has under him five metropolitans, namely, of Tyre, Damascus, Tripolis, Aleppo, and Nicosia, in Cyprus. See Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, t. 3. p. 46. [back]