What Did St. Anthony Do to Become a Saint?

St. Anthony the Great, also known as St. Anthony of the Desert, became a saint due to his extremely rigorous and ascetic lifestyle, one that drew many other interested persons to him for mentorship and example. As such, St. Anthony is highly regarded by many Christians as one of the founding figures in the history of monasticism.

Followers of St. Anthony assumed an almost soldierly mindset, rejecting earthly needs and desires in order to elevate the soul and consciousness closer to God. The character of their attitudes and sacrifice had wide-reaching influence on other early church figures, particularly men like St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the most important thinkers and writers in the history of Christianity.

Most of what modern readers know of St. Anthony is due to a biography written by fourth-century church writer St. Athanasius of Alexandria. According to available accounts, St. Anthony began his ascetic life of solitude and deprivation by age 20. During this time alone in the wilderness, Anthony is recorded as fighting his epic battle of wills against Satan and the latter's host of temptations. The representation of this moral struggle became a central theme in much early and medieval church imagery, and even in modern literature. After his fight in the wilderness, Anthony is said to have gathered followers who he then instructed in the lifestyle of the monastic hermit. St. Anthony also travelled and took part in some theological debates. For example, St. Anthony's second and last trip to Alexandria featured his presenting a fervent rejection of the Arian heresy, a position that held that Christ was not fully of the same divine substance as the Father.