January 17 ---- Anthony of the Desert
St. Anthony was born in the middle of the third century at Coma, Egypt. He was drawn to the ascetic life through a series of sermons which influenced him greatly.
He visited ascetics and studied their lives, trying to ascertain their principal virtue. Shortly later, he closed himself in a cave and lived in absolute solitude, praying and fasting. This angered the demonic forces who appeared as wild beasts and beat him almost to death.
Although St. Anthony lived most of his life in seclusion, he knew where and when he was needed to help the Church. In 311, he went to Alexandria to strengthen the Christian martyrs. Again in 350, at the age of ninety-nine, he went out to preach against the Arian heresy.
St. Anthony definitely breaks the myth that a hermit is an old man, half-crippled, with a long beard who is completely out of touch with reality.
Quite the opposite, of him is written: " His doctrine surely was pure and unimpeachable; and his temperament heavenly, without cowardice, without gloom, without self-complacency....being full of confidence, divine peace, cheerfulness, and valorous. Full of enthusiasm, he was, but it did not make him fanatical or morose."
In other words, St. Anthony was the perfect example of balance-- the balance of a man who perseveres in virtue and the gifts of God because he chooses to live for God alone. St. Anthony is recognized as the father of monasticism and of religious life. St. Athanasius , his biographer, wrote "the mere knowledge of how St. Anthony lived is a good guide to virtue."
Let us pray to St. Anthony to learn about his virtues and to have the perseverance in cultivating them.