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Life of a Saint

Saint Anthony the Great (vegan): Venerated Hermit of the Desert, Part 1 of 2

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Saint Anthony was one of the first Christians to live as a hermit in the desert. A Saint of divine wisdom and grace, Saint Anthony provided the example that others would follow, including Saint Pachomius the Great, who is regarded as the founder of cenobitic monasticism. Saint Anthony’s life influenced countless people for generations, shaping the history of early Christianity.

Born around 251 to a wealthy Christian family in the village of Coma, Egypt, Saint Anthony was an obedient and contented child, not caring for material things. When Saint Anthony was around 20 years old, His parents passed away and He took on the responsibility of caring for his younger sister, Dious. He gave away some of His family’s lands to His neighbors, and He left a small amount of money to His sister so she could live her life in the care of nuns in a convent.

Despite Saint Anthony’s sincere wish to devote Himself wholly to God, the voice of temptation disturbed Him day and night. When Saint Anthony asked, “Who are you? Who speaks thus with me?” The voice answered, “I am called the spirit of lust. How many have I deceived who wished to live soberly.” But with determination, faith, and constant prayer, Saint Anthony overcame all temptations. This was the first struggle for Saint Anthony against such evil.

Saint Anthony endeavored to be pure in heart and be ready to appear before God. He began His ascetic life by learning from others and living in one of the tombs near His village in solitude. He was a brave man with great faith in God. But the demons were relentless. Once again, faith helped Saint Anthony overcome the demons. A ray of light shone from the roof, and the demons disappeared. Saint Anthony immediately rose and prayed.

At the age of 35, Saint Anthony crossed the Nile in search of complete solitude to devote Himself wholly to prayer and penance. He then found an old, abandoned fort on a mountain by the Nile called Pispir (now Der-el-Memun), with water within. Blockading the entrance with stones, He shut himself inside and lived there for 20 years in absolute solitude. His faithful friend brought food and threw it over the wall twice a year, storing up a six-month supply.

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