Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

St. Anthony and the Desert Day

St. Anthony the Abbot
Religious (Jan 17)

Anthony had had it with the worldly world. He'd had his fill of treasure and trifles as a well-to-do young man. He was born in 251 in Egypt, in the midst of persecutions. He survived those, and even more bitter persecutions at the end of the same century. When he was about 20 years old, while a peace reigned and persecution of the Christians tapered off, his parents died. Within the year, when he went one time to pray in church, he heard a preacher speaking about the rigors that the Apostles endured, and that even the contemporary generation's parents had endured, for the Christian faith. How easy it had become to be a Christian. The preacher spoke about our Lord's admonition to the rich young man to sell his possessions so as to follow him more perfectly. The words resonated with Anthony as if Jesus had been speaking right to him.

Anthony sold his parents' estate, leaving only what was needed to provide for himself and his sister. He began to practice an increasingly austere and simple lifestyle, and after about fifteen more years quit the city altogether and moved into a cave in the wilderness. People drawn to his gentle modesty, wisdom, and wit followed him into the desert. His great hope had been to withdraw into the desert so as to find quietude for prayer, solitude for Jesus. His plan was not altogether foiled. The men who gathered around him began to live a life that was both collective and isolated, gathering for meals and Mass, and retreating again into secluded meditation and prayer. He wrote a rule for his brothers to order their life in common, and is known as the Father of Monasticism.

We each of us live in a very busy world, with a great deal of stuff - possessions, appointments, responsibilities. These burdens can crush us down, like the thorns in our Lord's parable, choke off our growth in Christ. It behooves us prayerfully, in conversation with trusted and spiritual friends, and with the advice of a spiritual director, to pare down our lifestyles, to simplify, and to cut back so that we can make time and space for Jesus. A great help in living a recollected and balanced life, as well as obeying the Third Commandment (remember the Sabbath, anyone?) is the Desert Day.

A Desert Day is a day by one's self, with Jesus. It might be at a retreat center or on a trail in the mountains. It really can be anywhere that will not intrude on our inner recollection; venues with lots of advertisement, music, flashing lights, etc., are straight out, mind you. Nice gardens, churches, quiet boardwalks in small towns - these might do. During the Desert Day one should make a real effort to attend Mass, make a holy hour, meditate on some spiritual reading, stroll about and take in the air, and let Jesus know what's going on in your life. Jesus will speak back to you if you let Him, but because He doesn't want to be a boor, he won't shout. He loves you, and lovers love to whisper in your ear. So if you want to hear Him, you must be quiet and listen closely.

St. Anthony the Abbot, please help us build a little monastery in our soul so that we, like you, can live with Jesus day and night. Amen.

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