Sun, 19 Jan 2014 01:48:41 +0000
On January 17th, the universal Church celebrated St. Anthony, Abbot and patriarch of monks.
He was born in or about 250 in Egypt of influential parents. After they died, he sought out solitude for the purposes of prayer and being close to God.
Whilst he was in church one day, he heard God speak to him through the words of the Gospel of St. Matthew: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor.” Accordingly, he dispensed with his property, which included his inheritance from his parents, giving the money to the poor and needy.
In or about 270, he went into the desert, with the ground being his bed, eating bread and salt, drinking only water. He spent much of his time in prayer, being in solitude for approximately 20 years. At or about the age of 54, he founded a monastery of “scattered cells.”
During his life, the devil regularly assaulted and attacked him. All this did was to make St. Anthony more determined to live his life for the glory of God and to love God. He encouraged his disciples in their struggles with the devil’s temptations and attacks:
Believe me; the devil fears the vigils of pious souls, and their fastings, their voluntary poverty, their loving compassion, their humility, but most of all their ardent love of Christ our Lord. As soon as he sees the sign of the Cross, he flees in terror.
He died in 356 on Mount Kolzin by the Red sea at the old age of 105 years. Approximately a year later, his close friend and confessor, the wonderful and fearless St. Athanasius, wrote Anthony’s biography, which became a handbook for monasticism/asceticism. St. Anthony believed that living life in an ascetic manner was not to destroy the body, but to make it pure, his true God-given nature.
The following are some of his sermons and instructions:
Let it be your supreme and common purpose not to grow weary in the work you have begun, and in time of trial and affliction not to lose courage and say: Oh, how long already have we been mortifying ourselves! Rather, we should daily begin anew and constantly increase our fervor. For man’s whole life is short when measured against the time to come, so short, in fact, that it is as nothing in comparison with eternity. . .Therefore, my children, let us persevere in our acts of asceticism. And that we may not become weary and disheartened, it is good to meditate on the words of the apostle: ‘I die daily.’ If we live with the picture of death always before our eyes, we will not sin. The apostle’s words tell us that we should so awaken in the morning as though we would not live to evening, and so fall asleep as if there were to be no awakening. For our life is by nature uncertain and is daily meted out to us by Providence. If we are convinced of this and live each day as the apostle suggests, then we will not fall into sin; no desire will enslave us, no anger move us, no treasure bind us to earth; we will await death with unfettered hearts.”
St. Athanasius said about St. Anthony, “Strangers knew him from among his disciples by the joy on his face.” We ask you dear St. Anthony, to help us fight the devil and his temptations, to avoid the near occasion of sin and for courage under trial and difficult circumstances. May we remember to look at ourselves daily and to amend our lives, always trying to be pure of spirit, wherein we make the Triune God the first priority in our lives as you did.
Sources: One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press; catholicculture.org