The Desert Fathers: Saint Anthony and the Beginnings of Monasticism


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In the late third century, more and more people withdrew to the radical seclusion of the desert so as to live entirely for God under the direction of a spiritual father. Among these "Desert Fathers" one figure is especially preeminent: Saint Anthony the Hermit.

This book takes the reader back to the hour when monasticism was born and describes the life of those revolutionary Christians who sought God in the Egyptian desert. The focus of the book is the life and work of Saint Anthony, whose experiences of the spiritual life have a timeless beauty and validity, even for those not called to live as a monk.

The second half of the book presents other Desert Fathers, such as Paul of Thebes, Pachomius, and Simeon Stylites, as well as the great founders of the monastic communities in Western Europe who were inspired by them: John Cassian, Columban, and Benedict, for example.

"The monk's self-denial begins radically in precisely those departments of life which have perennially seemed to be the most important: ownership, self-determination and sexuality. At the same time those who admonish so uncomfortably become the salt that lends Christianity its original flavor. . . . Just as the saints are God's specific answer to the needs of a given time, so too are the religious orders that have been founded over the course of the centuries."
– Peter Görg

Table of Contents:

Anthony of Egypt – Abbot and Star of the Desert
Childhood and Youth
Call to Asceticism
Anthony Among the Tombs
Anthony Goes into the Desert
The First Monastic Foundations
Journey to Alexandria
Into the Interior Desert
Anthony's Miracles
Anthony Fights Against the Arians in Alexandria
Anthony Disputes the Pagan Philosophers – The Emperor, Soldiers, and Simple People Seek his Counsel
The End of Anthony's Life
Eulogy by Athanasius
Veneration of the Saint
Anthony's Grave and the Antonite Order
The Original Hermit – Paul of Thebes
From Anchorite to Cenobite – Pachomius
Syria's Marvelous Flowering of Asceticism – Simeon Stylites
Monasticism in Asia Minor – Basil of Caesarea
From the Orient to the Occident – Monasticism in the West
Roman-Occupied Gaul – Martin of Tours and John Cassian
Irish Monasticism – Patrick and Columban
Benedict of Nursia – Father of Western Monasticism
Conclusion – Religious Orders and the Renewal of the Church
Selected Bibliography

"These are the men who taught the world to pray – really pray. They fled to the desert to avoid the crowds, yet drew disciples from everywhere. They still do. They're drawing you and me, right now, to join them in the greatest adventure. Our desert begins in these beautiful pages by Peter Görg."
Mike Aquilina, Author, The Fathers of the Church

Peter H. Görg studied philosophy and theology in the German universities of Vallendar, Fulda and Augsburg, where he received his doctorate in dogmatic theology in 2007. Dr. Görg is an assistant professor of systematic theology at the University of Koblenz. He has written numerous articles and reviews for theological journals.


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