Jan. 30 is the Feast of St. Anthony. May the blessings of this holy saint be with all of us.
Most of what is known about the life of Anthony comes from the Life of Anthony, written in Greek around 360 by St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Sometime before 374, it was translated into Latin by Evagrius of Antioch. The Latin translation helped to spread the concept of monasticism, particularly in Western Europe.
His Early Life
This righteous man was born in the year 251 A.D. in the city of Qimn El-Arouse, Egypt to wealthy landowner Christian parents who loved the church and the poor. They raised him up in fear of the Lord. When he was twenty years old, his parents departed, and he had to take care of his little sister.
Once, he entered the church and heard the words of the Lord Christ in the Gospel, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21) He returned to his house, decided to fulfill this commandment and considered it directed to him personally. He gave his wealth to the poor and needy, reserving a little however for his sister's sake. And again as he went into the church, hearing the Lord say in the Gospel, “be not anxious for the morrow,” he could stay no longer, but went out and gave those things also to the poor. Having committed his sister to known and faithful virgins to be brought up, he henceforth devoted himself outside his house to discipline, taking heed to himself and training himself with patience.
At that time, monasticism had not yet been established. All those who wanted to live a solitary life went and lived on the outskirts of the city. This was what St. Anthony did as he dwelt alone, worshipping and living an ascetic life.
But the devil, who hates and envies what is good, could not endure to see such a resolution in a youth, but endeavored to carry out against him what he had been wont to effect against others. First of all he tried to lead him away from the discipline, whispering to him the remembrance of his wealth, care for his sister, claims of kindred, love of money, love of glory, the various pleasures of the table and the other relaxations of life, and at last the difficulty of virtue and the labor of it; he suggested also the infirmity of the body and the length of the time. Another time, the devil fought him there by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and the phantoms of women. He overcame the devil's snares by the power of prayer.
After that, he went to one of the tombs, and he resided therein and closed the door on himself. Some local villagers used to bring him food. When the devil perceived his ascetic life and his intense worship, he was envious of him, and he beat him mercilessly, and then left him unconscious. When the villagers found him in this condition, they carried him to the church. After he recovered, he made a second effort and went back to a farther mountain by the Nile called Pispir, now Der el Maymun.
The devil again resumed his war against St. Anthony, only this time the phantoms were in the form of wild beasts, wolves, lions, snakes and scorpions. They appeared as if they were about to attack him or cut him into pieces. But the saint would laugh at them scornfully and say, "If any of you have any authority over me, only one would have been sufficient to fight me." At his saying this, they disappeared as though in smoke, for God gave him the victory over the devils. He was always singing this psalm, "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those also who hate Him flee before Him." (Psalm 68:1)
His Teachings and Miracles
Through him the Lord healed the bodily ailments of many present, and cleansed others from evil spirits. And He gave grace to Antony in speaking, so that he consoled many that were sorrowful, and set those at variance at one, exhorting all to prefer the love of Christ before all that is in the world.
St. Anthony used to prepare a quantity of bread that would sustain him for six months. He did not allow anyone to enter his cell, and whoever came to him, stood outside and listened to his advice. He continued in this condition of solitary worship for 20 years. Then by God's command, he went to El-Fayyoum and confirmed the brethren there in the faith, then returned to his place.
His Sacred Desire
In 311, Anthony wished to become a martyr and went to Alexandria during the persecution that took place under Maximinus. He visited those who were imprisoned for the sake of Christ and comforted them. When the Governor saw that he was confessing his Christianity publicly, not caring what might happen to him, he ordered him not to show up in the city. However, the Saint did not heed his threats. He faced him and argued with him in order that he might arouse his anger so that he might be tortured and martyred, but it did not happen. The Lord preserved him all along, according to His will, for the benefit of many, and so the Governor left him alone. Then the saint went back to his place upon the end of the persecutions, and many came to visit him and to hear his teachings.