My contribution to Catholicmom.com this month!
It often seems to me that the Church has strategically placed little feasts and celebrations throughout the liturgical year just to bolster the spirits of the faithful. Today is one such feast day as we honor St. Anthony the Abbott.
Today’s feast is right in the first weeks of Ordinary Time. The twinkle of Christmas is still a glowing memory, school semesters have started, and the work schedule is back in full swing. For most people, spring breaks and hopefully nice tax returns are the bright spots in an otherwise long, long winter stretching ahead over the horizon to a distant Easter. But before all of that, we have this little feast day as a place marker – a little stop on the road to give us a chance to contemplate the life of a saint who lived thousands of years ago but is still memorialized on the modern church calendar.
St. Anthony didn’t become a great saint by doing big important things. He didn’t write a tome, or influence a council. He wasn’t known for his robust preaching or supernatural healings. His holiness came from seeking to be simple.
That’s why his feast day seems to be so perfectly situated right here at the start of ordinary time. But what can a modern Catholic mom learn from an ancient celibate monk?
Lots! Everyone has their own crosses to carry. In family life, there are all of the crosses that come with having a spouse and raising a family. But celibacy and the monastic life has its own set of sacrifices. What we learn from St. Anthony is one way of working towards holiness in our lives – seeking quiet time and simplicity.
At this point in mid-January, we can concentrate on bringing order to our homes, to our families and to ourselves, free of the obligations and celebrations of Christmas and burdened primarily only with the crosses of daily living. St. Anthony took care of his family responsibilities first and then sought solitude to pursue prayer and living a simple life.
As moms, we put our families first too. But maybe now that school has started and schedules are set, we can try to carve out a little more time for prayer and contemplation – not as rigorous as Lent, but certainly good preparation for whatever that Lenten practice will be in a few weeks. By following St. Anthony’s example, we can find inspiration doing something simple without great fanfare or effort – Anthony had the desert, but perhaps for us it will be a corner, a dining room table, or our own bedrooms, maybe even a quick stop at church if time allows and as our commitments permit.
St. Anthony lived to a ripe old age of 105, yet he persevered until the very end in his Christian duties. Very few of us will know what it physically feels like to be that old, but I imagine it has its challenges. Perhaps today we can think of that too as we persevere in spite of whatever drags us down now – knowing that finding time for prayer is just as refreshing and necessary for our well-being as eating, exercising and bathing. It’s a necessity – not a luxury, and maybe with the example of the ancient old hermit keeping his own discipline alone in the desert in mind, we can find the inspiration to make and take the time to be silent and still in prayer – at least for a little while.
St. Anthony of Egypt – pray for us!