Today is the Feast of St. John of Rila. He is a 9th-10th century monastic of Bulgaria and considered to be the country’s great spiritual ascetic and protector. His life follows a pattern found in many ascetic saints.
Born in a village in the region of what is now Sofia, he was orphaned as a boy. He became a cowherd in hire of a cruel man. It was here that he learned to pray. After being beaten for losing a cow and her calf, he called to God for help. He found the two separated by a raging river. After placing his tattered shirt on the water, he was able to walk on the water in order to save the calf. His master saw this miracle and rewarded John, but being afraid sent him away.
St. John then wandered the wilderness. At first, he lived in a hut, but was driven away by robbers. Later, he lived in a deep cave. He became known for miracle working.
Finally, the monastic feats of St. John began to spread far and wide and he began to attract followers. They built a monastery where St. John was abbot until he died in A.D. 946.
In other words, there is a period where the monastic has some form of patronage — whether as a slave, servant or pupil. Then the monk wanders the wilderness. Finally, followers come and a monastery is built.
Note that this pattern is very similar to the three stages of a D&D character. Lower levels stick close to a home base as they dungeon delve. At mid-levels they explore the wilderness. At high levels, a piece of wilderness is cleared to make way for a stronghold and the attraction of followers. This is also a pattern implied by an understanding of Law vs. Chaos being (Christian) Civilization vs. (Demonic) Wilderness.
I have argued before that adventuring parties can be seen as metaphors for this very monastic pattern; however, there is no real character class that is representative of the Christian monastic tradition. Clerics come the closest, but these are much more akin to what modern gamers see as the holy warrior/paladin than a contemplative monk.
As I mentioned in my last post, there was a moment in the history of the game where such a class was at least being contemplated. I believe that such a class would work in a world where sin is personified by monsters. The issue is figuring out how to differentiate it from a cleric while still making it interesting to play.
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