Yesterday was the Feast of St. Anthony of Egypt (251-356).
As a young man he heard the words from Jesus being read at Mass:
“Sell all you have, give the money to the poor, and come follow Me”
He did just that!
He went into the wilderness and lived a very simple life of penance, living in great poverty, praying, meditating, and supported himself by manual work.
During this time, he faced many temptations. He faced his fears and shadows. However, he remained faithful.
Anthony had been living this lifestyle for many years.
People expected him to become ‘strange’ or ‘eccentric’.
However, what they discovered was a very wholesome human being.
Anthony allowed Christ to mould him.
Many were attracted by what they saw, and he began to gather disciples. They were attracted by his wisdom, his balance as a human being, and his holiness.
This was the beginning of the ‘Desert Fathers’ and ‘Mothers’. He is known as the father and founder of desert monasticism. By the time he died in AD 356, thousands of monks and nuns had been drawn to follow his example. As the saying went, ‘the desert had become a city’!
This was a time of change in society. The last persecution of Christianity by the Roman Empire happened at this time under the Emperor Diocletian.
Constance the First succeeded him, and Christianity became legal.
Most of us are not called to be hermits, monks, or nuns. However, we are all called to holiness.
Jesus warned us that the pursuit or riches and comfort can come in the way of living the Gospel way of life.
These men and women became living reminders, witnesses to living the simple life.
Regardless of our vocation, we are all called to remain healthily detached from the unhealthy pursuit of gratification and the pursuit of unhealthy accumulation of possessions.
The love of God above all things freed St. Anthony, and so many others, to be able to truly love all things.