This coming Saturday, January 17th, is the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony of Egypt, St. Anthony the Great, and the “Father of Monks.” (Not to be confused with St. Anthony of Padua.)
St. Anthony lived during the third century and has been credited with being the very first Christian to open a monastery for those who desired to devote themselves completely to God and live a monastic lifestyle.
Earlier today I was asked if I knew of any ideas for celebrating his feast with our children at home. We have not done much (other than read about him) in past years, but I thought I would see what else I could find and post it here for all of you. Thank you, Sharon, for the inspiration and prompting! Here are a few suggestions for celebrating his feast…
You can read about St. Anthony the Abbot in the Picture Book of Saints. Also, here is an except from Saints for Young Readers for Every Day, Vol. 1: January-June.
St. Anthony was born in 251 in a small village in Egypt. When he was twenty years old, his parents died. They left him a large estate and placed him in charge of the care of his younger sister. Anthony felt overwhelmed and turned to God in prayer. Gradually he became more and more aware of the power of God in his life. About six months later, he heard this quotation of Jesus from the Gospel: “Go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21). He took the words as a personal message in answer to his prayer for guidance. He sold most of his possessions keeping only enough to support his sister and himself. Then he gave the rest of the money to people who needed it.
Anthony’s sister joined a group of women living a life of prayer and contemplation. Anthony decided to become a hermit. He begged an elderly hermit to teach him the spiritual life. Anthony also visited other hermits so he could learn each one’s most outstanding virtue. Then he began his own life of prayer and penance alone with God.
When he was fifty-five, Anthony built a monastery to help others. Many people heard of him and sought his advice. He would give them practical advice such as: “The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross.”
St. Anthony visited Paul the hermit whose feast is celebrated on January 15. He felt enriched by the example of Paul’s holy life. Anthony died after a long, prayerful life. He was 105. St. Athanasius wrote a well-known biography of St. Anthony of Egypt. St. Athanasius’ feast day is May 2.
We should never become discouraged when the devil tempts us to do wrong. Remember that Jesus is right beside us. If we pray, he will help us. He will reward us for our love and faithfulness.
In The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children’s Faith Formation, the author tells us that, “In Mexico, and in some Central American countries, children celebrate Anthony’s feast day by painting stripes or polka dots on cows and sheep! They decorate chickens and cats with flowers and put clothing on them! Then they bring their animals to church for a blessing.” I don’t know how well that would go over here, but another option would be to talk to your children about How God Provides and then have them create Notebook Pages like Meredith’s children!
If you are talented with a sewing machine, how about making a Monk’s Bag?!?
In Catholic Traditions In The Home And Classrooms, author Ann Ball mentions that “legend reports that he had to endure severe temptations and that the devil often appeared to him in the form of a pig. Thus, pork is the traditional fare of the dinner on St. Anthony’s feast day.”
Cooking With the Saints offers a recipe for Olla De San Anton (St. Anthony’s Stew) which they say is very popular over in Spain, and attempts “to use as much as possible of the fresh pork.” Even though the author has updated the recipe by “eliminating some of the more exotic pork cuts, such as ear or tail” it still contains pork belly and blood sausage, therefore you won’t catch me making it. Yuck! Personally I would be more inclined to make Rachel Ray’s Roasted Pork Tenderloin or Pork Skewers with Pineapple-Scallion Rice.
Another option would be to prepare some Monastic Soup or any other recipe From a Monastery Kitchen since St. Anthony was known as the “Father of Monks.” I posted the recipe for St. Anthony of the Desert Soup over at Catholic Cuisine.
Saint Anthony, you spoke of the importance of persevering in our faith and our practice. Help us to wake up each day with new zeal for the Christian life and a desire to take the next challenge instead of just sitting still. Amen.
I’d love to hear any other ideas you all have, so please feel free to leave them in the comments.