Antony is the originator of the concepts of the monastic life as we know it in Christianity. Known as a "Desert Father" even though he was not "learned", he was the first to model the life of solitude and engagement for those who hear the words of the Gospel and abandon all to live fully for Christ. In that, he is the first in a long line including Benedict, Dominic, Francis, and Clare that stretches to this day.
The story of so many of these communities, many that come and go in the ebb and flow of history, start with the actions of one person, someone who sees a need in their own life, or in the community around them, or in the Church at large, and does something about it. Often they are engaged with friends who support one another in the founding; others strike out on their own and end up with a gathering of like minded individuals around them. Whatever the source, we the Church owe them a great debt not just for their courage but for their shared wisdom and continued prayers which benefit us all.
And Antony also was exceeding prudent, and the wonder was that although he had not learned letters, he was a ready-witted and sagacious man. ...two Greek philosophers once came, thinking they could try their skill on Antony; he was in the outer mountain, and having recognized who they were from their appearance, came to them and said to them by means of an interpreter, "Why, philosophers, did you trouble yourselves so much to come to a foolish man?" And when they said that he was not a foolish man, but exceedingly prudent, he said to them, "If you came to a foolish man, your labor is superfluous; but if you think me prudent become as I am, for we ought to imitate what is good. If I had come to you I should have imitated you; but if you to me, become as I am, for I am a Christian." But they departed with wonder, for they saw that even demons feared Antony.
-- From The Life of Antony (72), by Athanasius
The best thing about Athanasius' bio of Anthony is that it was contemporary; it is well writeen and worth reading in full.
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