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St Anthony the Abbot
(entered heaven this day in 356)
Don’t be alarmed that your firm decision to follow God’s call into the consecrated life is being assailed by doubts. Do you think the devil is happy with your decision? Do you think he will stand idly by as you finish college and prepare to devote yourself wholeheartedly to the love of God and the service of the Church? I would venture to say that he knows even better than you do how much good such a life can accomplish, and he will do all in his power to keep you from it. Today’s saint, the most famous of monks and the founder of Christian monasticism (he was born in Egypt and retired to solitude and prayer when just a young man, in response to a call he perceived during the readings at Mass), has many lessons for us, among them, how to respond to the kind of second-guessing that you are currently facing.
Anthony’s parents died when he was only a young man, and left him with a huge inheritance – lands, houses, money, industries, in short, a mountain of wealth. But then he heard the Gospel passage being read during the liturgy: “Go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven.” (Matthew 19:21) So he did, giving away everything except what he and his sister needed to survive. But then he heard another passage at Mass, “Do not worry about tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:34), and knew that God was asking more of him. So he provided for his sister and went into the desert with absolutely no possessions to his name. There began his life of prayer and sacrifice – and spiritual battle. For very soon the devil made his move. And his first tactic was to fill St Anthony with regret for having squandered his fortune. He buffeted the monk’s imagination with all kinds of ideas about how his money and lands could have been used for the good of the Church and the establishment of Christian works, and Anthony suffered the vertigo of doubt and confusion. But he persevered in prayer, and he recalled our Lord’s admonition that “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) The devil was forced to change his tactics, but Anthony’s first victory proved decisive, and he was able to fulfill God’s plan for his life, which not only flooded his own soul with joy and meaning but also opened a wide channel of grace that has never since stopped flowing into the world.
So don’t be surprised by these uninvited doubts, or by any other obstacles that may appear. Just keep on trusting in God and fill your heart with love for the gift of your vocation – then you too will become a flowing fountain of holiness that God can use to refresh this stagnant world.
Your loving uncle, Eddy