January 17: St. Antony, the Christian Home-Schooled Saint

Antony grew up in Egypt, born to very wealthy and religiously Christian parents who decided to home school him. In this way, he would be protected from the influences of other people’s thoughts and ways of life that might cause him to question the brand of Christianity with which they were inculcating him.

So when they both died, Antony found himself a young man in his 20s (with a younger sister in tow), with a vast estate and no clue about the world around him. When he went to church, he heard a sermon about Jesus telling the rich young man to sell all he had and give it to the poor, so Antony went home and immediately sold off his lands and distributed the money to the poor. Then he heard a sermon on “don’t worry about tomorrow, but rather let today’s worries be sufficient unto the day” and so gave up all his money except that which would get him through the day ahead and put his sister in a nunnery.

Antony then engaged in manual labor and began imitating the behaviors of others around him who called themselves Christians. (See any connection between Christian home schooling and eventual adulthood here?) Then Satan decided to attack our young man: First Satan tried guilt, in the form of “look what good you could have done had you held onto your money! Then Satan appeared as a lascivious woman to seduce him, and that failed. Then Satan appeared as a black African in order to frighten him (!), and that too failed. Apparently Antony disproved the idea that financial power, sexual desire, and racial differences held the power that society so often teaches.

So then philosophers began to tempt him (often regarded as satanic in their own ways), asking Antony why he didn’t read books and think. Antony stated that God’s creation was sufficient to teach him. The philosophers gave up easier than Satan, apparently.

Antony later withdrew to spend much of his time in prayer and fasting, and Satan would return during such periods in the guise of wild animals, hallucinations, and growling sounds, but that did not move Antony one way or another. Nor was Antony moved by the fact that his life came to the attention of Roman Emperor Constantine and Constantine’s family in a positive way such that they requested by letter that Antony pray for them (which he did, as he would pray for anyone else).

A naif to the end, Antony never saw reason to grumble himself about his life circumstances and merely made the request that he be buried in the mountains in a location unknown to others.

Indeed, this is a very interesting case study on the results of Christian home schooling, yes?