The holy confessor St. Paphnutius was an Egyptian who, after having spent several years in the desert under the direction of the great St. Antony, was made bishop in the Upper Thebaid. He was one of those confessors who under the Emperor Maximinus lost the right eye, were hamstrung in one leg, and were afterwards sent to work in the mines.
Peace being restored to the Church, Paphnutius returned to his flock, bearing all the rest of his life the glorious marks of his sufferings for the name of his Crucified Master. He was one of the most zealous in defending the Catholic faith against the Arian heresy and for his holiness. As one who had confessed the Faith before persecutors and under torments, he was an outstanding figure of the first General Council of the Church, held at Nicaea in the year 325.
Paphnutius, a man who had observed the strictest continence all his life, is said to have distinguished himself at the Council by his opposition to clerical celibacy. Paphnutius said that it was enough to conform to the ancient tradition of the Church, which forbade the clergy marrying after their ordination.
To this day it is the law of the Eastern Churches, whether Catholic or dissident, that married men may receive all Holy Orders below the episcopate, and continue to live freely with their wives. St. Paphnutius is sometimes called “the Great” to distinguish him from other saints of the same name; the year of his death is not known. His feast day is September 11.