Saint Anthony was born in the year 251 AD in Egypt of very pious parents. His education was limited; however he attended church with his parents and intensely observed the services, wanting to enrich his spiritual growth.
His parents died when he was 18 years old. He lived with his sister and took care of family affairs. One day when he attended the liturgy, he heard the words that Jesus had said to a wealthy young man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mat 19:21)
He was so moved by these words that he decided to do as Christ had told the young man. He sold off his plots of farmland, gave the money to the poor and entrusted his sister to a Christian home for virgins for at this time there were no monasteries. Those who wanted to meditate would build cells a short distance from the city and live there. This is what Anthony did.
To further his spiritual struggle, at the age of 35 he departed for the desert where he found a derelict fortress in which he barricaded himself. As the years passed many men came to him, expressing the desire to follow his example by living the life of a hermit and undergoing spiritual struggles. He taught his brothers to prefer their love for Christ over everything else. Even though Saint Anthony lacked education, his words were full of faith and divine wisdom. His reputation and ascetic figure added a heavenly charm to his teachings.
In time this became the first monastery, established in 305 AD. It is for this reason that Saint Anthony is generally known as the Father of Monasticism. From this one brotherhood many more sprouted throughout the known world. Rules were soon established which were to be followed by all hermit monks.
Saint Anthony died in 356 AD at the age of 105.