St. Antony, Abbot

St. Antony, Abbot, 18th century St. Antony, Abbot, 18th century  (© Musei Vaticani)

Asceticism and prayer

His life was marked by solitude, fasting and work. Orphaned at 20, as a young man he gave all his goods to the poor and retired to the desert, where he 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 animals

St. Anthony is often depicted next to a pig with a bell around its neck. This iconographic representation is linked to the fact that the ancient hospitaller order of the “Antonines” raised pigs because the fat of these animals was used to anoint the sick affected by ergotism. This disease was then called "the fire of Sant 'Antonio". On his feast day, the stalls are blessed, as are any domestic animals brought for blessing. In the iconography is associated with St. Anthony figures also the hermit’s staff in the form of T, the tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

A gift from God

In the biography Vita Antonii, St. Athanasius wrote these words referring to St. Anthony: "That he was everywhere known, admired and desired by everyone, even those who had not seen him, is a sign of his virtue and God-friendly soul. In fact, neither for writings nor for a profane wisdom nor for any capacity is Anthony known, but only for his piety towards God - and no one could deny that this is a gift from God. As indeed we would not have heard in Spain and in Gaul, in Rome and in Africa of this man, who lived withdrawn in the mountains, if God Himself had not made him known to all, as He does with those who belong to Him, and as He had announced to Anthony since the beginning? Even if Anthony acted in secret and desired to remain hidden, the Lord shows him and those like him to everyone, as a lamp, that those who hear about them know that it is possible to follow the commandments and take courage in following the path of virtue.”