Abba Arsenius on Education

Monastic Monday

Br. Monday’s takeaway is that he doesn’t need to study Latin or Greek anymore

Someone said to blessed Arsenius, “How is it that we, with all our education and our wide knowledge get nowhere, while these Egyptian peasants acquire so many virtues?” Abba Arsenius said to him, “We indeed get nothing from our secular education, but these Egyptian peasants acquire the virtues by hard work.”

One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts. Someone noticed this and said to him, “Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education ask this peasant about your thoughts?” He replied, “I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant.”

Source: Selections from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Arsenius was educated in Rome, so he definitely stood out among the other early monks in Scetis. But his response to that was always humility. It can be easy to subconsciously associate education with an elitist mindset, but it is only worthwhile if it is put in service to learning each other’s alphabet.

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