Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

January 17
Antony of Egypt

Saints celebrating feast days today include Antony of Egypt (patron saint of basket-makers, domestic animals, pets, and people with skin diseases and is to be invoked against erysipelas--also called ergotism or Saint Antony's Fire), Mildgyth, and Sulpicius.

St. Antony of Egypt (251-356) was born in Coma, Upper Egypt, to wealthy parents who died when he was 20, leaving him a fortune that he promptly gave away to the poor. Unfortunately, Antony was not an only child--he had a sister who was probably doing a Linda Blair immitation as this was going on, which undoubtedly made it easier to get her into the convent where he quickly placed her.

After dealing with these pesky family matters, Antony went to live with a local recluse whom he had long admired. In the world of recluses, one is company and two's a crowd so Antony soon left the recluse and went to live as a hermit in a nearby cemetery for the next 15 years. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Saints informs us that "here he lived an austere life of prayer, manual work, and penance, undergoing famous temptations and trials of the flesh, yet overcoming them all." How does a hermit undergo famous anything? One more mystery, I guess.

Antony went from the cemetery to an abandoned fort, living there in solitude and subsisting on whatever was thrown over the walls for him. I imagine the pickin's were pretty good, at least by the time he left the fort 20 years later, since a group of disciples had gathered around his retreat quite a while before he left it. Antony formed them into an aescetic community then went to Alexandria, returning with a close disciple, Macarius, and going this time with Macarius to live in a cave.

He took one more trip to Alexandria before returning to the cave for good. He died at 105.

Saint Antony is associated with pigs and bells, since one of the aescetic orders he founded, the Hospitallers of St. Antony, raised free-range pigs identifiable by the bells they wore. This must have presented a challenge, since pigs don't have necks. Maybe pigs back then had necks. If you were trying to bell a pig now, you would have to make a harness and hang it off that. Yet another mystery. The word "tantony" is derived from Saint Antony, and means the smallest of a peal of bells or the runt of a litter of pigs.

 

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Birthdays today: Muhammad Ali (1942), James Earl Jones (1931), and Betty White (1924 or 1922).

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Marilyn Jones 2000-2008