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Read the story of San Antonio abbot

Anthony, Abbot, is also called: Saint Anthony the Great,… of Egypt,… of the Fire,… of the Desert,… the Anchorite. He was responsible for the permanent establishment of families of monks who, under the guidance of a spiritual father,“abba”, they dedicated themselves to the service of God.

The life

The life of Antonio Abate is known above all through the "Vita Antonii”published in 357, hagiographic work attributed to Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who met Anthony and was assisted by him in the fight againstArianism. The work, translated into various languages, became popular both in the East and in the West and made an important contribution to the affirmation of the ideals of monastic life.

Anthony was born in Coma in Egypt (today's Qumans) around 251, the son of wealthy Christian farmers. Orphaned before the age of twenty, with an estate to manage and a younger sister to look after, he soon felt he had to follow the evangelical exhortation: «..."If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven..."»(Mt 19,21). Thus, having distributed the goods to the poor and entrusted his sister to a female community, he followed the solitary life that other anchorites already led in the deserts around his city, living in prayer, poverty and chastity.

In search of a penitent and distraction-free lifestyle, he asked God to be enlightened and so he saw, not far away, an anchorite like him who, sitting down, worked weaving a rope, then stopped, stood up and prayed, then went back to work. and again to pray; he was an angel of God who showed him the path of work and prayer which will be, two centuries later, the Benedictine rule"Pray and work"of Western Monasticism.

Part of his work was used to obtain food and part he distributed to the poor; Athanasius writes that he prayed continuously and was so attentive to reading the Scriptures that he remembered everything and his memory of him replaced the books.

The tests

After a few years of this edifying experience, in his youth, very harsh trials began for him, obscene thoughts tormented him, doubts assailed him about the opportunity of such a solitary life, not followed by the mass of men nor by ecclesiastics, the instinct of the flesh and the attachment to material goods that had been dormant in those years returned forcefully and uncontrollably. He asked for help from other ascetics who told him not to be scared, but to move forward with confidence, because God was with him and they advised him to get rid of all ties and things, to retreat to a more solitary place.

Then, covered with a rough cloth, he closed himself in a tomb dug into the rock near the village of Coma. In this place, the first temptations were replaced by terrifying visions and noises, plus he went through a period of terrible spiritual darkness, but he overcame everything by persevering in faith in God, carrying out his will day by day, as his teachers had taught him.

When Christ finally revealed himself to him by enlightening him, he asked: “Duties? Why didn't you appear from the beginning to put an end to my suffering?". He heard himself reply: “Antonio, I was here with you and witnessed your fight...".

Red Sea

Antony later moved towards the Red Sea on MtPispirwhere there was an abandoned Roman fortress, with a water source. He was 285 and he remained in this place for 20 years, nourishing himself only with the bread that was dropped on him twice a year. In this place he continued his search for total purification, despite being bitterly tormented, according to legend, by the devil.

Over time many people wanted to be close to him and, having demolished the walls of the fort, they freed Antonio from his refuge. Antonio then dedicated himself to soothing the suffering by operating, according to tradition, "healings"And"deliverance from the devil".

The followers

The group of Antony's followers split into two communities, one to the east and the other to the west of the Nile River. These Desert Fathers lived in caves and ravines, but always under the guidance of an older hermit and with Anthony as their spiritual guide. His presence had attracted many people eager for spiritual life and many chose to be monks; thus monasteries arose in the mountains of Thebaid (Upper Egypt) and the desert was populated with monks; the first of that multitude of consecrated men who, in the East and in the West, undertook the path he began, expanding it and adapting it to the needs of the times.

He lived his last years in the Thebaid desert where, praying and cultivating a small garden for his own sustenance, he died, over a hundred years old, on 17 January 357. His disciples handed down his wisdom to the Church, collected in 120 sayings and 20 letters; in Letter 8, Anthony wrote to him: “Ask with a sincere heart for that great Spirit of fire which I myself have received, and it will be given to you".

The relics

He was buried by his disciples in a secret place but in 561 his tomb was discovered and the relics began a long journey through time, from Alexandria to Constantinople, up to France in the 11th century at Motte-Saint-Didier, where a church in his honor; here, to venerate his relics, crowds of sick people flocked, especially with cancerous ergotism, caused by the poisoning of a fungus present in the rye used to make bread.

The disease has been known since ancient times as “ignis sacer” for the burning it caused. To accommodate all the sick who arrived, a hospital and a brotherhood of religious people were built, the ancient hospital order of the "Antonians”; the village took the name of Saint-Antoine of Viennois.


The pope granted them the privilege of raising pigs for their own use and at the expense of the community, so the piglets could move freely between courtyards and streets, no one touched them if they wore an identification bell. Their fat was used to treat ergotism, which was called “the evil of St. Anthony" and then "St. Anthony's fire” (shingles). For this reason, in popular religiosity, the pig began to be associated with the great Egyptian hermit who was then considered the patron saint of pigs and by extension of all domestic and stable animals.

Devotion to St. Anthony the Abbot is very widespread and the saint's relics have been transferred to Italy three times to be venerated. Last seen on: January 16, 2008; they are transported to Diano Marina (IM) where they are exhibited until January 22nd in the parish church dedicated to the Saint.

On January 17, the liturgical feast of Sant'Antonio Abate, the Holy Mass is presided over by His Excellency Giulio Sanguinetti, Bishop Emeritus of Brescia. On January 20th the relics were transported in a solemn procession along the city streets, in the presence of the diocesan Bishop HE Mons. Mario Oliveri and on the 23rd they were accompanied to the small port of Diano Marina where, with a following of boats, they were transported, by sea, to Porto Maurizio from where, by land, they left for France.

For the record: in Southern Italy San Antonio Abate is called "Sant'Antuono” to distinguish him from St. Anthony of Padua.

Meaning of the name Anthony: “born first” or “who faces his adversaries” (Greek).

source ©

Asceticism and prayer

His life was marked by solitude, fasting and work. Orphaned at the age of 20, as a young man he donated all his possessions to the poor and retired indesert, wherehe also fought against the temptations of the devil, choosing the path of asceticism and prayer. Anthony was responsible for the establishment of families of monks who, under the guidance of a spiritual father, consecrated themselves to the service of God.

Saint Anthony and the blessing of the animals

He is usually depicted with a pig with a bell around its neck. This iconographic representation is linked to the fact that the ancient hospital order of the "Antonians" raised pigs within the inhabited centers since the fat of these animals was used to anoint the sick affected by ergotism.

This disease was later called “St. Anthony's fire”. On the day of his liturgical feast, the stables are blessed and the domestic animals are brought to be blessed. In iconography, the T-shaped hermits' staff, the “tau”, last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

A gift from God

In the biography “Vita Antonii”, Saint Athanasius writes these words referring to Saint Anthony: “That he was known everywhere, admired and desired by all, even by those who had not seen him, is a sign of his virtue and his soul friend of God.

In fact, Antony is known not for his writings or for profane wisdom or for any ability, but only for his piety towards God. And no one could deny that this is a gift from God. As in fact one would have heard of it in Spain and Gaul , to Rome and in Africa of this man, who lived secluded in the mountains, if God himself had not made him known everywhere, as he does with those who belong to him, and as he had announced to Anthony from the beginning?

And even if these act in secret and want to remain hidden, the Lord shows them to everyone like a lamp, so that those who hear about them know that it is possible to follow the commandments and take courage in walking the path. I walk of virtue."

source © Vatican News – Dicasterium pro Communicatione

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