Friday, November 03, 2006
Saint Anthony the Abbot
Anthony was born in Egypt. When he was twenty years old, his parents died. They left him a large estate and placed him in charge of the care of his young sister. Anthony felt overwhelmed and turned to God in prayer.
He soon became more and more aware of the power of God in his life. About six months later, he heard this quotation of Jesus from the Gospel: "Go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Mark 10:21).
He took the words as a personal message in answer to his prayer for guidance. He made sure that his sister completed her education, then sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned and gave the money to the poor and to the people who needed it.
Anthony's sister joined a group of women living a life of prayer and contemplation. Anthony decided to become a hermit. Then at the age of thirty-five he moved alone to the desert, living in an abandoned fort and began his own life of prayer and penance alone with God.
He devoted himself to prayer and penance. For more than twenty years Anthony was tempted by the devil, but he overcame temptation by prayer and sacrifice.
By the time he was fifty-five, people found out where he was and began coming to him for healing and for spiritual counseling. Finally, Anthony built two monasteries on the Nile, one at Pispir and one at Arsinoe. The monks and people who lived around him supported themselves by making and selling baskets and brushes.
Many people heard of him and came to him looking for advice. He would give them practical advice such as: "The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross."
He consented to guide them in holiness. He started the first monastery, so people call him the father of monastic life and the patriarch of monks. His miracles drew so many people so he left and went into the desert again, where he lived by hard work and prayer.
Anthony died at the age of 105 after a long, prayerful life in 356.