The life of Saint Paphnutius is surrounded by mystery. The dates of his birth and his death are completely unknown. According to tradition, he was a disciple of Saint Anthony of the Desert (c. 251-356). Paphnutius was a priest and eventually became the bishop of the Thebaid region of Egypt.
Paphnutius lived during the reign of Roman Emperor Maximinus II (c. 270-313). Maximinus would capture clergymen and, if they would not renounce the Faith, gouge out their right eyes and send them to almost certain death as mine laborers. This was the fate of Paphnutius. It is also thought that the sinews of his left leg were cut and that he was, therefore, unable to walk properly for the rest of his life.
Paphnutius, obviously, outlived Maximinus’ short five-year reign. After the emperor’s death, he was able to leave the mines and return to Egypt. However, shortly after he returned home, a presbyter from Alexandria began preaching the Arian Heresy. Paphnutius did the utmost to protect his flock in the Thebaid.
Paphnutius was very highly respected by the Emperor Constantine who sometimes asked the saint for personal advice. Paphnutius is mostly remembered for his actions during the First Council of Nicaea (325). Many of the clergy wanted to forbid bishops, priest, and deacons from engaging in sexual intercourse even if they had been married before ordination. Paphnutius stated that it is not right to separate a man from the woman whom he was united to in the presence of God. Men who were not married before ordination, however, should undoubtedly remain celibate. The other members of the council eventually agreed with him.
It is thought that Paphnutius was a great friend of Pope Saint Athanasius I (c. 293-373). When charges of decadent and inappropriate behavior were brought against Athanasius, Paphnutius was one of the forty-nine bishops who attended the First Synod of Tyre (335) and helped to clear Athanasius’ name.
Paphnutius ministered to his flock and defended Orthodoxy until his death. How the holy man died is completely unknown.
Saint Paphnutius’ feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is on September 11. He is also venerated by the members of the Eastern Orthodox Church who celebrate his feast on April 19.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints