They were a new phenomenon. During the first three centuries, Christians had led an ascetic life without abandoning their homes and work. There was no community life yet. Now in the 3rd century some retire to the desert seeking refuge during the persecutions. Gradually a sort of community life within the close walls of monasteries begins to flourish. Figures such as St. Pacomius, St. Anthony and St. Benedict made known the perennial call to the reform of the Church and to personal sanctity.