St. Antony of Egypt – Father of Christian Monasticism

Antony, who lived the life of a Christian monk from the year 270, is often called the father of Christian monasticism. Although there were other monks before him, the story of his life as one of the earliest monks was preserved through the writings of Athanasius and inspired many during his lifetime and through the centuries to answer the call to the religious life. Born to wealthy parents who died when he was 18,  Antony found himself at a young age to be the caretaker of his younger sister and a landowner of considerable means. He was inspired by the scripture “if you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven.” He sold the land that was his inheritance, gave the money to the poor and placed his sister in a convent. Antony was one of the first monks to retreat into the desert, where he lived a solitary life for over thirty years. However, disciples sought him out for his wisdom and other monks aimed to follow his example of an ascetic existence. Antony grouped his followers into a community and his practice of alternating prayer with manual labor for himself and his monks was a precursor to the Rule of St. Benedict (written approximately 200 years later) and became part of the foundation for monastic tradition for years to come.

When you lie down on your bed to sleep, remember with thanksgiving the blessings and the providence of God.

Whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved – Antony of Egypt

In this statue, St. Antony is pictured with a raven holding bread in its mouth. According to St. Jerome, during Antony’s years in the desert, he spent time with his friend, Paul the Hermit. While they resided together, a raven brought a loaf of bread diligently to both of them daily.

 

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