The pathway to sainthood is open to everyone but it can be very expensive. Saint Anthony of Egypt was not the first desert hermit. He is one of the most famous. He lived for about 105 years. He drew thousands of followers and helped defend the Christians from Alexandria from persecutions and heresy.
Saint Anthony of Egypt was born in 251 in Upper Egypt. He was the only son of Christian parents. His city was full of pagans, so his parents educated him at home. Just before he turned 20, his parents died. He inherited his parents’ estate and money. He also needed to care for his younger sister. About six months later, he had a vision of Christ, who told him to sell what he had and give it all to the poor. Anthony placed the care of his sister with a holy woman, and gave a large portion of his land to his neighbors and sold everything, and gave it to the poor. He then went to the desert to become a hermit. He lived there for 15 years praying fasting and studying. Saint Athanasius wrote about Saint Anthony. Athanasius wrote of Anthony being tested by wild beasts.
When he was 35, Anthony left his home again and went into further solitude. However, people had heard of his holiness, and he attracted many people who want to be his disciples. They wanted to be taught about monastic life. These men lived alone too, but would occasionally meet for religious services. He organized and directed these colonies for a time, and then went into even further seclusion. He spent the last 45 years of his life, alone, occasionally instructing the people who came to visit him. He did leave twice once in 311 during the persecution of Maximinus to encourage Christians suffering martyrdom and again in 355 to preach against the Arian heresy. He never wanted to be venerated and asked that his grave be kept a secret. He is considered to be the father of monasticism and all forms of religious life.
He is the patron saint of animals, skin diseases, farmers, butchers, basket makers, brushmakers, and gravediggers.