Saint Anthony the Great lived between 251 to 360 AD. He was born in Koma, a place in Upper Egypt. He came from a Christian family and he grew up as a very respectful and obedient young man. He and his sister ended up being very wealthy when both their parents died when Anthony was twenty years old. It was at this time that during a church service he was impressed by a sentence from the Gospel of St. Matthew (Mt.19:21): “If you want to be perfect go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven.” That sentence made him change his life.
He sold all that he owned, gave the money to the poor and put his sister in a convent so that the good women living there would take care of her. He left the city and went to live in a hut. He lived on what he could earn by making mats for his basic needs. Later he moved to live in the desert where he lived a solitary life for the rest of his life. He has become known as one of the Desert Fathers as other holy people followed him to live the solitary life in the desert. His life in the desert was characterised by penance, sacrifice and continuous silent prayer in meditation. But he suffered greatly from temptations based on doubts whether he was doing the right thing in his life, and in his efforts to maintain a pure heart. However, he did leave the desert twice for a brief time: first to offer courage to Christians who were being persecuted at the time and then to preach against a group of people, known as heretics, who were preaching the wrong doctrine about Jesus Christ.
Saint Anthony the Great is often depicted with a pig at his feet. It is said that he was accompanied by a pig that he had rescued and healed. He is honoured as the patron saint of domestic animals. In some countries, including Malta, domestic animals are blessed on his feast day.
Saint Anthony’s parents died in his late ‘teen’ years. He had to look after his younger sister. He was so overwhelmed, and he turned to God and offered his life for Him. He left everything to the poor and started living his life alone, as a hermit, in the desert. He got inspired from Matthew Mt 19:21.