Antony and Paul of Thebes (see January 15th) – remembered as the first to retreat into the desert to seek God in solitude – inspired all the Desert Fathers and Mothers who followed, and the Celtic hermits who, several centuries later, sought their own “deserts” in which to find God. Antony entered the Egyptian desert to live in complete solitude in about 285, when the church was becoming increasingly secularised. He wanted desperately to encourage people to obey Jesus’ word to seek first the Kingdom of God, and trust Him for everything else. His reputation attracted followers to go and settle near him.
Around 305 he came out of the hermitage to act as their Abba and to move among society’s elite and its rejects, teaching, helping, healing, driving out evil and encouraging people to follow the example of Christ. Five years later he retired again into solitude and prayer. He is looked upon as the founder of monasticism. Athanasius’s Life of Antony had enormous influence for hundreds of years, inspiring others to imitate his life as a hermit and soldier for Christ.
Christ, our King, show us the way to nourish our spirits through solitude and prayer, so that we may help others to follow Your way. May we seek first Your Kingdom and all that is right, and put our complete trust in the Father for all that we need in our lives. Amen.