Meet St. Anthony the Hermit. St. Anthony, the “father of monks,” was born around 251, the son of wealthy Christian parents who died in his youth, leaving a large inheritance.
One day in church, he heard Jesus’ words to the rich young man that he should sell all he had and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21). Anthony felt the words were spoken to him personally, and he obeyed them. He withdrew into the desert, where for twenty years he lived in complete solitude.
During those years, Anthony experienced terrible temptations as he “wrestled” with the devil. He came out of those trials victoriously–not because of his own willpower, but because of his unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ. He emerged from his solitude healthy, balanced, and full of wisdom. People flocked to him for healing, comfort, and direction.
In his old age, Anthony retired to an even deeper solitude to be totally absorbed in communion with God. He died in 356, when he was more than one hundred years old.
The story of St. Anthony reveals how God calls his people to holiness–how he transforms us from being self-centered to being God-centered. This process of transformation often takes place in the furnace of silence and solitude. There, we are set free to be our unique and true selves. In this freedom, we are better able to love and serve God and his people.
The Church has set aside January 17th to celebrate the holy life of St. Anthony.