Saturday, January 17, 2009

Anthony of Egypt

When reading (& blogging) about the saints I often find myself thinking it takes all kinds. But in the words of Bill Murray, Anthony of Egypt takes the taco. He inherited some money, gave it all away, went to live as a hermit. So far so good; nothing here out of the ordinary-saintly-way.

Then he decided to form a loose knit community of hermits. You read that right. He organized a group of people who then collectively avoided contact with all other people including each other. & he did this before e-mail.

Getting on in years, 60+ depending on the source (& for the 4th century, that was a good run), he thought the best use of his time & reputation would be to get martyred. So, he picked a fight. With the Romans. & lived.

Then around 80+, he decided to go minister to prisoners of Maximus. That's right, prisoners in Roman prisons. The same Romans he was looking to martyr him 20 years before. & lived. In the end it was Maximus who had the troubles.

I think my first favorite thing about Anthony of Egypt is that he became a close friend of Saint Paul the Hermit. I try to picture their long interludes of ignoring each other from opposite mountain tops. Cozy. Why do these weird celebrity clusters happen? Remember when all the best music seemed to be coming out of Athens, Georgia? Or the most innovative cars from Detroit? OKay, I have no memory of truly great cars out of Detroit, either, but it happened. It gets weirder: Anthony's biography was written by his other friend, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria.

My second favorite is this quote from one of the catholics-on-lines sites: "his relationship with pigs and patronage of swineherds is a little complicated". Now I know patronage does not mean quite the same thing to the people who maintain the saint-sites as it does to the Mayflower Madam but someone needs to rethink this line. All I can picture is his FaceBook page with 'it's complicated' with porcine-types listed under relationship.

According to most sources, he lived into his 100s. As did Paul the Hermit. This business of avoiding everyone around you seems to be good for your longevity; that is why I have adopted it. (I am sure both of their doorbells were broken, too). What impresses me is the decision to go ahead & die in a good (to him) cause & still living. As far as I can tell, he died of old age. Of course, he could have died in his 50s & died of old age so I do not know what to make of it.

Anthony of Egypt is very big with cemeteries & cemetery workers of all kinds, but especially gravediggers (I do not know why), swine & swineherds (ditto), the usual afflicted of the skin (every third saint is invoked against afflictions of the skin. No sunblock & not washing must have been very hard on the skin & that was before you started picking up leprosy & the black plague at the local farmers market) & slews of others (brushmakers, basket weavers & on & on).

Then I came to the last on the list: amputees. Anthony of Egypt shares this last patronage with Anthony of Padua, who is more widely invoked in order to find lost objects. Don't tell me the church has no sense of humor.

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