One of the most famous of the early Christian solitaries, born about A.D. 300; died 390. He was a disciple of St. Anthony and founder of a monastic community in the Scetic desert. Through the influence of St. Anthony he abandoned the world at the age of thirty, and ten years later was ordained a priest. The fame of his sanctity drew many followers, and his monastic settlement at his death numbered thousands.
The community, which took up its residence in the Nitrian and Scetic deserts, was of the semi-eremitical type. The monks were not bound by any fixed rule; their cells were close together, and they met for Divine worship only on Saturdays or Sundays. The principle which held them together was one of mutual helpfulness, and the authority of the elders was recognized not as that of monastic superiors in the strict sense of the word but rather as that of guides and models of perfection.
In a community whose members were striving to excel in mortification and renunciation the pre-eminence of Macarius was generally recognized. Several monasteries in the Libyan desert still bear the name of Macarius. Fifty homilies have been preserved which bear his name, but these and an "Epistle to the monks", with other dubious pieces, cannot be ascribed to him with absolute certainty.