SAINT APOLLO THE SHEPHERD
Apollo’s place of origin is nowhere given. He was from a humble milieu, since, like his parents, he was a shepherd, whence his epithet. While keeping his flocks, he had a flight of fantasy, asking himself how a child looked in its mother’s womb. Unfortunately Apollo passed from the fantasy to the act. He cut the womb of a pregnant woman in order to see how the fetus looked. After the death of the woman and the child, he was so stricken with remorse that he became a monk at Scetis and remained persuaded that his twofold crime could not be pardoned by God.
The Ethiopian Synaxarion gives this story as an example of repentance and focuses on the modality of his expiation. The text of the Apophthegmata says simply that he prayed without ceasing. The Ethiopian Synaxarion adds to this that in his youth he had committed all kinds of faults, and it embroiders somewhat on the manner of his penitence. He is said to have gone into the “interior” desert—that is, the most remote from the valley of the Nile, ten stades (about a mile and a half) from Scetis—without bread to eat or water to quench his thirst and there lived like the beasts.
He is said to have lived in the desert like this for fourteen years, at the end of which time an angel caused him to meet a desert father who assured him that God had pardoned even the death of the child. After the desert father miraculously gave the Eucharist to him, Apollo died in the arms of the father, who wrote the story and made it known to the monks of Scetis. The moral lesson of this pious story is that whatever the magnitude of the crime one has committed, one must never despair of divine mercy.
- Budge, E. A. W., trans. The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church, 4 vols. Cambridge, 1928.
- Graf, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes chrétiens conservés au Caire. Studi e testi 63. Vatican City, 1934.
- Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, Pt. 1, Manuscrits chrétiens, 2 vols. Paris, 1972-1974.
- Waddell, H., trans. The Desert Fathers. London, 1981.
- Ward, B., trans. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers in the Alphabetical Collection. Cistercian Studies. Kalamazoo and Oxford, 1981.