Saint Of The Day For January 17: Saint Antony, Abbott
Father of monasticism, protector of animals and model of Christian life. St Antony Abbot born in Coma, Egypt, around 250, dedicated his life to the Lord.
He is one of the greatest hermits in the history of the Church. His liturgical memorial falls on 17 January.
Asceticism and prayer, The life of Antony
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 withdrew to the desert, where he also fought against the temptations of the devil, choosing the path of asceticism and prayer.
Antony was responsible for the establishment of families of monks who, under the guidance of a spiritual father, consecrated themselves to the service of God.
St Antony and the blessing of animals
He is usually depicted with a pig beside him with a bell around his neck.
This iconographic representation is linked to the fact that the ancient Hospitaller Order of the ‘Antonians’ bred pigs in built-up areas because the fat from these animals was used to anoint the sick suffering from ergotism.
This disease was later called ‘St Antony’s fire’.
On his liturgical feast day, the stables are blessed and domestic animals are brought in to be blessed.
In iconography, the hermits’ staff in the shape of a T, the ‘tau’, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is also associated with St. Antony.
A gift from God, Antony
In his biography “Vita Antonii”, St Athanasius writes these words referring to St Antony:
“That he was everywhere known, admired and desired by all, even by those who had not seen him, is a sign of his virtue and of his soul being a friend of God.
For not by his writings nor by profane wisdom nor by any skill is Antony known, but only by his piety towards God.
And no one could deny that this is a gift from God.
For how would one have heard in Spain and Gaul, in Rome and Africa of this man, who lived withdrawn among the mountains, if God himself had not made him known everywhere, as he does to those who belong to him, and as he had announced to Antony from the beginning?
And even if these act in secret and wish to remain hidden, the Lord shows them to all like a lamp, so that all who hear of them may know that it is possible to follow the commandments and take courage to walk the path of virtue”.