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In memoriam – St. Antony

According to tradition, St. Atony died on January 17, 356. Although he was not the first Christian monk, he is usually considered the founder of Christian monasticism as his life and teachings were so influential in establishing the monastic patterns of those who came after him.

Athanasius’ Life of Antony is an important source of information about the great Christian and went a long way toward establishing his reputation in later Christianity. Here is how Athanasius explains his reasons for writing his biography of St. Antony.

Now since you asked me to give you an account of the blessed Antony’s way of life, and are wishful to learn how he began the discipline, who and what manner of man he was previous to this, how he closed his life, and whether the things told of him are true, that you also may bring yourselves to imitate him, I very readily accepted your behest, for to me also the bare recollection of Antony is a great accession of help. And I know that you, when you have heard, apart from your admiration of the man, will be wishful to emulate his determination; seeing that for monks the life of Antony is a sufficient pattern of discipline. Wherefore do not refuse credence to what you have heard from those who brought tidings of him; but think rather that they have told you only a few things, for at all events they scarcely can have given circumstances of so great import in any detail. And because I at your request have called to mind a few circumstances about him, and shall send as much as I can tell in a letter, do not neglect to question those who sail from here: for possibly when all have told their tale, the account will hardly be in proportion to his merits.