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Mar 01, 2023 1094 Shalom Tidings
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Saintly Musings: Ascetic Superstar

At the age of 20, Anthony lost his parents and was left with a large inheritance and the responsibility of caring for his sister. About the same time, Anthony happened to hear a reading from the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus tells a rich young man, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor.” Anthony believed he was that rich young man. Shortly after, he gave away most of his property, sold almost everything else, and kept only what he needed to care for himself and his sister. But that’s not exactly what the Lord had commanded!

Not long afterward, Anthony was at Mass once again and heard the Gospel passage, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34). Again, he knew Jesus was speaking directly to him, so he gave away even the little he had saved, entrusted his sister to the care of some holy women, and entered the desert to live a life of poverty, solitude, prayer, and mortification.

In that harsh desert landscape, the devil attacked him in countless ways saying “Think about all the good you could have done with that money you gave away!” Firm in prayer and mortification, Anthony fought off the devil and his manifestations. Many were attracted to his wisdom, and these he encouraged to seek self-denial and the hermetic life. No wonder after his death he became Saint Anthony the Great or Saint Anthony of the Desert, the father of Christian Monasticism.

Once a brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Antony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, “If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.” The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Antony said, “Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.”

 

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