St Anthony the Great of Egypt. Feast Day January 17th. Anthony was born in Coman in Egypt in 251 AD and was the son of wealthy Christian parents. When he was 18 years old his parents died leaving him a large inheritance which he immediately distributed among the poor and needy. He soon after adopted an ascetic lifestyle and lived as a hermit spending the majority of his time in contemplative prayer and manual labour. After 15 years in the same place he relocated to an abandoned fort in Pispir where he dwelled for 20 years ,existing only on the scraps of food people threw over the walls of the fort. Soon a group of followers gathered around his retreat, eager to imitate a similar way of existence and in 305 AD a small community of monks under his direction began to develop. Later on Anthony established yet another foundation in a monastery in Pispir. Spending much time in seclusion on Mt Colzim in 355 AD he left his solitary life to visit Alexandria where he joined the uprising against Arianism with his friend Athanasius who provides us with most of the information about Anthony’s life. Finally in 356 AD he returned to Mt Colzim where he spent his last days. He is renown for his sound teaching and personal warmth ,a role model for solitaries and monks he is accredited with the title “The Father of All Monks”.
Saint Sebastian, Feast Day January 20th.Very little is known about Sebastian’s youth ,he was born in Narbonne in Gaul in 256 AD and joined the Roman army in 283 AD. He enlisted in the military ostensibly to be of service to other Christians who were undergoing persecution. Sebastian was an excellent soldier and soon rose in the ranks to acquire the position of personal guard to the Emperor Diocletian. Rome at this time was a predominantly a pagan city and Sebastian fervently encouraged fellow Christians to keep the faith during this difficult period, converting many influential individuals to Christianity including the local Prefect , Chromatius. When the Emperor Diocletian discovered Sebastian’s religious preference he sentenced him to be shot with arrows. He was left for dead but Irene of Rome found him and nursed him back to health in a secret location. Immediately after his recovery he bravely confronted Diocletian reproaching his cruelty towards Christians . Extremely surprised at his reappearance in the flesh the Emperor condemned him once again hastily to a brutal death through beating with cudgels. Sebastian’s body was though to have been secretly buried by fellow Christians in a grave now marked by the basilica of Saint Sebastian . He is listed as one of the 14 Holy Helpers and is the Patron saint of athletes and soldiers.
St Agnes of Rome. Feast Day. January 21st. Agnes was born in Rome in 291 AD she was a member of Roman nobility and raised in a wealthy Christian family. Although she was believed to be exceptionally beautiful Agnes consecrated herself to God as a child. When she was only 13 years old the Prefect of Rome Sempronius desired that she was betrothed to his son but when she refused outrightly he reported Agnes to the Roman authorities for being a Christian. Agnes was not to be deterred however she held on firmly to her faith and beliefs rejecting any suitor that came her way. Agnus was thus condemed to death . Roman law forbade the executions of virgins so she was cruelly dragged through the streets of Rome and sent to a house of ill repute. However the authorities attempted to defile her Agnes remained miraculously preserved by the grace of God. Eventually she was decapitated and burried in a catacomb on the Via Saleria and by 349 AD a basilica had been built over her tomb by the emperor Constantine’s daughter. Agnes continues to be an inspiration to all those women who partake in the Religious life and is the Patron saint of young girls and all those seeking chastity.