St. Anthony of Egypt, abbot, was born in Coma, Upper Egypt. While still young he got rid of all his possessions and lived among the local ascetics, and then withdrew into the desert, where he lived in complete solitude and was repeatedly tempted by the devil. Remaining steadfast, he attracted a number of disciples to a hermit’s life in the desert and a small monastery was formed at the place. From there he, in 311, went to Alexandria to encourage the confessors during the persecution of the Emperor Maximinus Daia (emperor in the east 310-313).
St. Anthony was reputed to be a miracle-maker and many were converted by him. His surviving works include a letter to the Emperor Constantine and several ones to different monasteries. St. Athanasius, who knew Anthony well and wrote his biography, said, “Anthony was not known for his writings nor for his worldly wisdom, nor for any art, but simply for his reverence toward God.”
Anthony lived a long and righteous life and died at the age of 105. In keeping with his instructions, two of his disciples buried his body secretly in an unmarked grave. In 561 his relics were transferred to Alexandria, and much later, they were claimed by Constantinople and by La Motte, where the Order of Hospitallers of St. Anthony was founded c. 1100. His feastday is January 17.
John was disappointed that the Carmelites no longer lived by the strict Rule that they were known for. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun who became a famous saint and Doctor of the Church, told John that she had been given permission to begin convents based on the original Rule. She asked John to join her in this work.
Teresa and John’s reforms meet with anger and resistance. Some friars did not like the changes John suggested. They imprisoned John in a dark and dirty cell. It was in those terrible conditions that he wrote some of his most beautiful poetry and mystical writings.
Even though John lived many years ago, from 1541 to 1591, his spiritual legacy is still read today by people who want to grow in their relationship with the Lord. One of John’s most famous sayings is, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”
Saint Bernard was one of the most commanding Church leaders in the first half of the twelfth century as well as one of the greatest spiritual masters of all times. He entered the Abbey of Citeaux in 1112, bringing thirty of his relatives with him. After receiving formation from St. Stephen Harding, he was sent to begin a new monastery near Aube, Clairvaux.
Bernard’s writing, as well as his extraordinary personal magnetism, began to attract many, leading to numerous new foundations. His dynamism soon reached far beyond monastic circles and he was sought as an advisor and mediator by the ruling powers of his age. And although he suffered from constant physical debility, Bernard found time to compose many and varied spiritual and theological works that still speak to us today.
Bernard died at Clairvaux on August 20, 1153, and was canonized in 1174. Pope Pius VII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1830.
Intercessory Prayer—Let us ask Saint Bernard to intercede with God today to assist us with our urgent prayer needs, and to intercede for all cloistered religious who strive to live for God alone!