January 17, 2021

Download the Bulletin as a PDF

17 January
Feast of St. Anthony of the Desert

Were it not a Sunday today we would be celebrating the Father of Christian Monasticism: St. Anthony of the Desert. He was born in Egypt about the middle of the third century. His wealthy parents died when he was twenty years old. Instead of keeping his inheritance, Anthony gave it away and dedicated himself to a life of prayer and penance.

Long before this it had been usual for Christians to practice asceticism, abstain from marriage and exercising themselves in self-denial, fasting, prayer, and works of piety; but this they had done in the midst of their families, and without leaving house or home. Later on, in Egypt, such ascetics lived in huts, in the outskirts of the towns and villages, and this was the common practice about 270, when Anthony withdrew from the world.

He began his career by practising the ascetical life in this fashion without leaving his native place. Eventually he took up his abode in one of the tombs, near his native village, and there it was that he suffered strange conflicts with demons in the shape of wild beasts, who inflicted blows upon him, and sometimes left him nearly dead. After fifteen years of this life, at the age of thirty-five, Anthony determined to retire in absolute solitude. He crossed the Nile to a mountain where he found an old fort into which he shut himself, and lived there for twenty years without seeing the face of man, food being thrown to him over the wall. Gradually a number of would-be disciples established themselves in caves and in huts around the mountain. They begged him to come forth and be their guide in the spiritual life. From 305 to 310 he devoted himself to their instruction but then he once again withdrew to the desert that lay between the Nile and the Red Sea to a mountain where still stands the monastery that bears his name, Der Mar Antonios, where he spent the last fortyfive years of his life. On two occasions he went to Alexandria, once to strengthen the Christian martyrs in the persecution of 311, and once at the close of his life to preach against the Arians.

When the Church was besieged by heretics and the world stood on the precipice of the fall of the Roman Empire, St. Anthony engaged the greatest battle of all: spiritual warfare for his soul and the salvation of those seeking Jesus Christ, God and man.

St. Anthony of the Desert, pray for us!

St. Anthony the Great (Albrecht Dürer, 1519)

St. Anthony the Great (Albrecht Dürer, 1519)