Ever hear of Simeon “I’m sitting on a pillar until I die” Stylites? He grew up as a shepherd boy and joined a monastery at the age of sixteen. He gave himself up to the practice of austerity – living off as little as possible. Eventually he was living so austerely that the other monks were worried about him, and were concerned that he could not be of any help to the community. The other monks kicked him out of the monastery, and he became a hermit in a hut for the next three years. It was in this hut that he persevered through a whole season of Lent without eating or drinking anything. As he got older, Simeon combined his extreme fasting with standing up for as long as his limbs could hold him for an entire Lenten season.
After another three years in his hut, Simeon decided to do nothing but pray in isolation until death befell him. He went into the desert as he searched for a small confined place which was perfect for praying. People decided that anyone that crazy had to be holy, and so they followed him into the desert. Simeon was so fed up with people invading his personal bubble and not letting him do what he wanted. He climbed up a pillar and refused to come down.
His pillar was constantly under construction, beginning at 6 ft high and eventually grew to just over 50 ft. Simeon spent his time instructing disciples, and teaching what he learned in the monastery to those who would make a pilgrimage to his pillar out in the desert. Emperors and Empresses even came to listen to what he said.
Simeon refused to come down from his pole, even when he was really sick. Time and time again bishops would come to the tower to try and persuade him to come down and seek medical help. Simeon replied “You can’t convince me to come down from my pole. If God wanted me to be cured, he’d do it himself.”
Simeon was so determined to keep doing what he was doing, that he stayed up in the air for thirty six years on that pillar before he died from natural causes. Simeon was a guy who just wanted to get away from it all and hang out with God in some peace and quiet. He went to great lengths to get there, 50 feet to be exact, but was never granted the solitude that he desperately craved. Instead he became renowned for his holiness, wisdom, miracles, and self-deprivation.
(In case you were wondering where he peed, I know I was, I looked it up and the answer is “off the side.” People could go and listen to him, but they had to make sure the wind wasn’t blowing in their direction.)
photo credit: By No machine-readable author provided. Bo-deh~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Written by BW Frech