Five things about saint John the little

Five Things You (probably) Don’t Know About Saint John The Short

Even though saint John the little is relatively famous among the desert fathers (thanks to the story of the tree of obedience), there was so much more to his life that I was surprised to learn while making his graphic novel. Here are some interesting things I learned about him along the way:

Illustration of Saint Pishoy/Paisios the perfect man with Saint John and Abba Amoi - from "A Forest in the desert" graphic novel

1. He shared a cell with Saint Pishoy

Saints john the little and pishoy the perfect man were roomies! Not only that, but saint John is the one who wrote down the story of Saint Pishoy from his perspective. They were close friends who were legitimately saddened when God’s will for them was to live in separate places.

Here’s a little excerpt from Saint John himself: “I, the humble John, who wrote the present narration, remained with Paisios in the same cell, for we were of the same mind and we practiced the same life and diet according to the canon we received from our spiritual father, strengthening each other in the faith and striving together for the salvation of our souls.”

By the way, you can find the story of Saint Paisios/Pishoy/Bishoy here as told by St. John the Short. (ISBN: 9780884650140)

Illustration of Saint Arsenius the great sitting in the desert of Scetis, from the graphic novel "A Forest in the Desert: The Life of Saint John the Short"

2. He was a spiritual guide to Abba Arsenius

Abba Arsenius travelled ALL THE WAY from Rome to Scetis in Egypt, to be discipled under Saint John the little. Actually, he went to St. Macarius first who then told him to go live with St. John. I don’t know about you, but I grew up hearing about our desert fathers as separate entities, I didn’t hear much of their interactions. That’s why I get SO excited whenever I learn of their friendships with one another. Looking at their birth dates, Saint John the short was about 39 years younger than saint Macarius! This means he might’ve inspired John to become a monk, and also shows how honorable this recommendation for Arsenius to go learn from John instead is (and shows Saint Macarius’ humility as well!).

Saint Paeisa sitting beside Saint John the Short, who is crying for her repentance

3. He was an inspiration to the modern Saint Therese of Lisieux

In her memoirs, Saint Therese mentions the story of abba John and saint Paeisa. This was nothing short of awesome as I was reading her memories separately while working on the book. I found abba john in the most surprising places, here’s the story of Saint Paeisa from Saint Therese’s memoir: “This young girl, having lost her parents early, first uses her inheritance to make her house a hospice where she allows the solitary monks of Skete to sell their goods. After some time, regretting the sums invested in this charity, she decides to close her house to the monks and sinks into crime and debauchery. The solitaries of Scete then send Jean the Dwarf who manages to obtain her repentance and to convince her to leave her house to accompany her in the desert, probably with the intention of leading her to a monastery. During the night, Paesa dies suddenly in her sleep, as she was “too full of love”” according to Saint Therese. 🙂

Map of the desert of Scetis and mount Qulzum in the Red Sea

4. He lived in Scetis, but died on a mountain near the Red Sea

Saint John initially went to Scetis to seek monasticism. Scetis was home to many desert fathers like Saint John, Pishoy, Macarius the great, Arsenius, Poiemen and more! But after barbarians raided Scetis, Saint John moved to the Red Sea – where OTHER great saints lived! The red sea is where Saint Antony the great started monasticism. The way I think about it, is that Scetis is where communities of monks lived and the red sea is where individual monks sought solitude. Cool, huh?

A photo of the relics of Saint John the Short at the Saint Macarius Monastery in the Egyptian Desert

5. His relics are currently at the St. Macarius monastery

Saint John’s monastery was destroyed and deserted centuries after his death (405 ad). And so, when his relics were found, they were put in the nearby (and still active) St. Macarius Monastery. You can even go and get his blessings today!

Learn even more about saint John the little in my latest graphic novel:

Saint John the little Christian Orthodox Graphic Novel Book Image