Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Anthony, the abbot. Born in the third century into a house of privilege, he grew up in Egypt with parents who were Christians. By the time he was twenty, both his parents were gone and he was alone. Struck by a line from the Gospel of St. Matthew, he sold all his land, gave all to the poor, and then lived as a hermit in the desert, fasting and praying. Today, he is known as the Father of Monasticism.
Why does the Church celebrate him? After all, there is no requirement to separate ourselves from the world and live as a hermit, fasting and praying. Yet we can learn from St. Anthony that God must be first in our lives. We can work toward the humility which characterized his life by examining our priorities and by putting God at the top of the list.
We know much about Anthony because a biography written by one of his followers recorded not only his life, but also many of his ideas for following the Lord. “I die daily” is one of his mottoes that can speak to us today. He thought that we should wake up each day believing that it would be our last. Imagine living each day as if it were the day we would meet our maker, as if this day were the final chance to make a difference, and if this day would end our earthly life.
We prepare ourselves for that moment by dying to Christ every day, as he died for us. The Eucharist we are about to receive gives us the grace we need. It is our task to cooperate with that grace in the manner of St. Anthony – dying daily in humility for the glory of God.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator