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St. Anthony Abbott

Name: St. Anthony Abbott
Date: 17 January

Saint Anthony was born in the year 251, in Upper Egypt. Hearing at Mass the words, “If youwould be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,” he gave away all his vastpossessions — staying only to see that his sister’s education was completed — and retired intothe desert. He then begged an aged hermit to teach him the spiritual life, and he also visitedvarious solitaries, undertaking to copy the principal virtue of each.

To serve God more perfectly, Anthony immured himself in a ruin, building up the door so thatnone could enter. Here the devils assaulted him furiously, appearing as various monsters, and evenwounding him severely; but his courage never failed, and he overcame them all by confidence inGod and by the sign of the cross. One night, while Anthony was in his solitude, many devilsscourged him so terribly that he lay as if dead. A friend found him in this condition, and believinghim dead carried him home. But when Anthony came to himself he persuaded his friend to takehim back, in spite of his wounds, to his solitude. Here, prostrate from weakness, he defied thedevils, saying, “I fear you not; you cannot separate me from the love of Christ.” After more vainassaults the devils fled, and Christ appeared to Anthony in His glory.

Saint Anthony’s only food was bread and water, which he never tasted before sunset, andsometimes only once in two, three, or four days. He wore sackcloth and sheepskin, and he oftenknelt in prayer from sunset to sunrise.

His admirers became so many and so insistent that he was eventually persuaded to found twomonasteries for them and to give them a rule of life. These were the first monasteries ever to befounded, and Saint Anthony is, therefore, the father of cenobites of monks. In 311 he went toAlexandria to take part in the Arian controversy and to comfort those who were being persecutedby Maximinus. This visit lasted for a few days only, after which he retired into a solitude evenmore remote so that he might cut himself off completely from his admirers. When he was overninety, he was commanded by God in a vision to search the desert for Saint Paul the Hermit. Heis said to have survived until the age of a hundred and five, when he died peacefully in a cave onMount Kolzim near the Red Sea. Saint Athanasius, his biographer, says that the mere knowledgeof how Saint Anthony lived is a good guide to virtue.

Sources: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints

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