St Anthony the Abbot

17Jan13

Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, Anthony insured that his sister completed her education, then he sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to thepoor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At age 35 he moved to the desert to live alone; he lived 20 years in an abandoned fort.

Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers and would-be students broke in. Hemiraculously healed people, and agreed to be the spiritual counselor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the Gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Nile, one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came hispatronage of those trades.

Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to AlexandriaEgypt to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of the persecutions of Maximinus. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.

Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up themonastic life, and to follow his way. Late in life Anthony became a close friend of Saint Paul the Hermit, and he buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend Saint Athanasius of Alexandria.

His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineherds is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony’s intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the art work, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs – and people who worked with swine took him as their patron.



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