St. Anthony of the Desert: Overcoming Temptations

Do you ever feel like you lack control of your life? Is there some idol or vice that has the reigns and is controlling the way you live? Is that disordered need affecting the necessities of your life, like your sleep, your diet, your profession, or your relationships?

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick took a look at an article by Father Michael Rennier about the methods that St. Anthony of the Desert employed to overcome his demons and bad habits.

When Anthony was young, his parents died, leaving a large inheritance for him and his sister. However, even from a young age, Anthony realized his weakness for pleasure, glory, and material things. So, after his sister entered a convent, he gave away the rest of his money and went into the wilderness to live as a hermit.

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While he quickly became renowned for his holiness, it wasn’t as if his struggles went away. A cross can often be one that we bear for a long time, even for life. “But St. Athanasius relates that Anthony continued to struggle with, ‘Remembrance of his wealth, care for his sister, claims of kindred, love of money, love of glory, the various pleasures of the table and the other relaxations of life, and at last the difficulty of virtue and the labor of it.’” (Rennier, 2022)

Patrick compared this lifelong struggle with earthly temptation to the struggles of Lent. We know how hard it is to offer up one or two sacrifices for Lent and stay the course for forty days. Now we should imagine just how difficult it might be to give up all money, a house, good food, good drink, and every pleasureful thing for the rest of your life. That is what St. Anthony did, even though he could have lived a lavish lifestyle.

Believing that his temptations were still within reach, Anthony retreated even further into the wilderness, specifically the top of a mountain in the desert. He locked himself in a chamber, completely cut off from the world so that he could focus his prayer on defeating his temptations. For 20 years, Anthony faced his demons, but he never gave in. He never relapsed, and he never submitted to the devil.

We are all struggling with our own demons in life and hearing this story, it may be discouraging. “There’s no way I can move to a mountain and lock myself away.” “I can’t give all my money away and become a hermit.” “I have a family to take care of and I still struggle with demons.” God is most likely not asking you to follow through on such drastic measures. That is rarely the case. But there are still things we can learn from St. Anthony so that we can effectively imitate him and battle our demons.

Father Michael says there are three traits of St. Anthony to emulate:

  1. His follow-through. He knew what type of man he was becoming, and he knew what type of man he wanted to become. He made quick and steadfast resolve to cut off the bad fruit and set a course for the man he wanted to be. There was no hesitation and no excuses. When you know that you’re aiming for a good end by way of good means, you can’t think about the downside or the inconveniences. You just have to buckle up and do it.
  2. His imitation of the good. He didn’t invent this rigorous type of asceticism. He saw it in people that he admired, and he imitated it. He saw the self-sacrifice and selflessness of Christ’s passion in the holy men of his day and determined that if he was ever going to attain that level of holiness, he would need to take drastic measures like them.
  3. His perseverance to the end. “In the end, his big secret was the simple refusal to ever give up.” That doesn’t seem like a very big secret. Every athlete has said that. Every successful businessman has said that. That’s because it’s integral. It would be so easy to throw in the towel and accept your faults because, “Hey, that’s just who I am.” “That’s the way God made me.” No. The journey to self-improvement never ends. God isn’t looking for perfect people. Those don’t exist. He’s looking for willing people.

Listen to the full segment below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.