Today, January 17*, is the feast day of a great monastic, Anthony of Egypt.
Anthony the Great, Father of solitaries, went into the desert and did battle with demons for twenty years. When he came out, his biographer, St. Athanasius, said of him that he was a man “all balanced, standing in his natural condition, and governed by reason."
Here's something Thomas Merton said:
St. Anthony, called “the father of monasticism”, was born in central Egypt about 251 AD, the son of peasant farmers who were Christian. In circa 269, he heard the Gospel being read in Church and applied to himself the words of Jesus to the rich man: “Go, sell all that you have, give it to the poor and come, follow Me.” He sold everything he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor and devoted himself to a life of asceticism under the guidance of a recluse living on the outskirts of his village. Around 285 AD he went alone into the desert to live in complete solitude. It was in this solitude and silence that Anthony heard clearly the Word of God for his life. After 20 years in solitude, Anthony
emerged “as one initiated into the mysteries of God and inspired by the Holy Spirit (he became) a physician given by God to Egypt through whom the Lord healed many people.” He died at the age of 105 in 356 AD and his biography, written by St. Athanasios...created an immediate literary and theological sensation throughout the ancient world.
*UPDATE: Whoops! I'm a day behind. I just realized that today is the 18th. St. Anthony's day was yesterday. Oh well!