The Saint whom we honor today is also known as Anthony of the Desert to distinguish him from the more well-known Franciscan saint, Anthony of Padua whom many turn to when they have lost something. Today’s saint is known as the “Father of Monks” because he was one of the first to leave everything to live as a hermit and his example attracted many others. All this began when he entered a church one day and heard the words Jesus addressed to the rich young man: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19: 21). He felt Jesus present in the proclamation of the Gospel addressing those very words to him. As Apostles of Prayer we strive to listen attentively to the Gospel and to offer our entire selves to God through our Daily Offering. Let us renew that offering now as we reflect on a section of St. Athanasius’ biography of St. Anthony.
Let us not think, as we look at the world, that we have renounced anything of much consequence, for the whole earth is very small compared with heaven. Therefore, if it even happened that we were lords of all the earth and gave it all up, it would be nothing when compared to the kingdom of heaven. It would be as if a man should despise a copper coin to gain a hundred pieces of gold. Even so, if a man were lord of all the earth and were to renounce it, that which he gives up is little, and he receives a hundredfold. But if not even the whole earth is equal in value to the heavens, then he who has given up a few acres leaves as it were nothing. And even if he gave up a house or much gold he ought not to boast nor be low-spirited. Further, we should consider that even if we do not relinquish them for virtue’s sake, still afterwards when we die we shall leave them behind—very often to those to whom we do not wish. Why then should we not give them up for virtue’s sake, that we may inherit a kingdom? Therefore let the desire of possession take hold of no one, for what gain is it to acquire these things which we cannot take with us? Why not rather get those things which we can take away with us—prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from wrath, hospitality? If we possess these, we shall find that they will prepare for us a welcome there in the land of the meek-hearted.