Read the article, Saints for all seasons: St Simeon Stylites the Elder, and answer the following reflection questions. Then share your answers in pairs or groups.
Questions for reflection
1. How is spiritual freedom different to other forms of freedom? Why might confining yourself to live on a pillar – or as others do, within the walls of a monastery – lead a person to spiritual freedom?
2. Why is Simeon’s humility – that is, his obedience to religious authorities - an important part of his holiness? How would it be different if he refused to come down, even as bishops were testing his obedience?
3. What do you think of the idea that power is in fact about service, and to be exalted we need to become like children? Do you think this is true? Why/why not?
Do some research on the Stylites movement. Explore the geographic and cultural environment that the Stylites like Simeon lived in. Why do you think living in such physically gruelling ways was so attractive to these Christians? How would their hardship bring them closer to God? Write a short reflection on the movement, or if you want to get a bit creative, write an imaginative interview with one of the Stylites, exploring why they have chosen to live this life.
2. Taking a stand for God
Look up the #Lovemakesaway movement on the web, and see how some religious people today make a public stand in order to direct people towards God. How are their public actions like St Simeon’s? Brainstorm an activity that students in your school could do in order to take a stand for a good cause. For example, you could decide to refuse to do anything but sit silently during recess in order to raise money for Caritas or Vinnies.
3. Monastic life
Do some research on people living monastic lives in Australia today. Find one Australian monastery and see what you can find out about it: How and when was it founded? What order do the people there belong to? What are their day-to-day lives like? Why do they do what they do? You might like to see if you can contact them directly to find out more.
For younger students
1. Share with the students the story of St Simeon (a more child-friendly version can be found here: https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/saints/saints-stories-for-all-ages/saint-simeon-the-stylite). Why would St Simeon choose to give up everything to serve God? Get the students to think about what St Simeon might be doing all day on the pillar – praying to God, thinking about God, answering questions from pilgrims. Have them draw a picture or write a story about St Simeon on the pillar.