The Carmelite Church in Moate celebrate this day each year 17th January with All day blessings of Animals and Farm Produce.
About St Antony, Abbot (251 - 356)
This outstanding Father of all Monks St Antony is the originator of the monastic life. He was born in Egypt about the year 250: when his parents died, he listened to the words of the Gospel and gave all his belongings to the poor.
He went out into the wilderness to begin a life of penitence, living in absolute poverty, praying, meditating, and supporting himself by manual work. He suffered many temptations, both physical and spiritual, but he overcame them.
Disciples gathered round him, attracted by his wisdom, moderation, and holiness. He gave support to the
victims of the persecutions of Diocletian, and helping St. Athanasius in his fight against the Arians. He lived to be over a hundred years old, and died in 356.
The Gospels are full of wise sayings of Jesus that seem to be ignored, and one of the most poignant of these was in his meeting with that young man who asked over and over again, insistently, “What must I do to have eternal life?”
When, in the end, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect he would have to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor, the young man went away, sorrowing; because he was very rich.
What could be more of a waste than that? You tell someone what he has to do, and he is afraid to do it. And yet... 250 years later, St Antony hears the story, and does give away all that he has, and becomes the founder of monasticism. And then again, over 1,000 years later, St Francis of Assisi hears the story, and gives away his possessions (and some of his father’s) and revolutionises Christianity again.
Not all the words that we speak are forgotten, even though we cannot see their effects ourselves. Let us pray that those unknown effects may always be good ones.
Saint Antony receives his vocation
From the Life of Saint Antony by Saint Athanasius, bishop
When Antony was about eighteen or twenty years old, his parents died, leaving him with an only sister. He cared for her as she was very young, and also looked after their home.
Not six months after his parents’ death, as he was on his way to church for his usual visit, he began to think of how the apostles had left everything and followed the Saviour, and also of those mentioned in the book of Acts who had sold their possessions and brought the apostles the money for distribution to the needy. He reflected too on the great hope stored up in heaven for such as these. This was all in his mind when, entering the church just as the Gospel was being read, he heard the Lord’s words to the rich man:
If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor – you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me.
It seemed to Antony that it was God who had brought the saints to his mind and that the words of the Gospel had been spoken directly to him. Immediately he left the church and gave away to the villagers all the property he had inherited, about 200 acres of very beautiful and fertile land, so that it would cause no distraction to his sister and himself. He sold all his other possessions as well, giving to the poor the considerable sum of money he collected. However, to care for his sister he retained a few things. The next time he went to church he heard the Lord say in the Gospel: Do not be anxious about tomorrow.
Without a moment’s hesitation he went out and gave the poor all that he had left. He placed his sister in the care of some well-known and trustworthy virgins and arranged for her to be brought up in the convent. Antony decided to become a hermit. He visited Paul the hermit whose feast is celebrated on January 15. He felt enriched by the example of Paul's holy life.and begged the elderly hermit Paul to teach him the spiritual life. Antony also visited other hermits so he could learn each one's most outstanding virtue. Then he began his own life of of prayer and penance alone with God. He gave himself up to the ascetic life, not far from his own home. He kept a careful watch over himself and practised great austerity. He did manual work because he had heard the words: If anyone will not work, do not let him eat. He spent some of his earnings on bread and the rest he gave to the poor.
When he was fifty-five, Antony built a monastery to help others. Many people heard of him and sought his advice. He would give them practical advice such as: "The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross."
Having learned that we should always be praying, even when we are by ourselves, he prayed without ceasing. Indeed, he was so attentive when Scripture was read that nothing escaped him and because he retained all he heard, his memory served him in place of books. Seeing the kind of life he lived, the villagers and all the good men he knew called him the friend of God, and they loved him as both son and brother, St. Antony died after a long, prayerful life. He was 105 (Source: Divine Office Vol1)
Eventually he came to be regarded as a healer of animals as well as of people. The order of Hospitallers of St. Antony, founded during the 12th century, endeavoured to keep animals in good health by hanging bells around their necks. His feast day is celebrated in various parts of the world by bringing household pets and livestock into the churchyard, where the local priest blesses them with holy water. All the animals are carefully groomed and often decorated with ribbons and fresh flowers. The custom is celebrated hugely in Rome including, St Peters Basilica, and it was brought from Italy to Moate where it has been celebrated ever since. The Late Fr Mulcahy O.Carm was always a celebrant for years of this feast.
To print out this story in a specially produced leaflet for this feast day please use the link provided (pdf)
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