The history of Catholic consecrated life dates to the earliest centuries after the death of Jesus Christ. Initially there were many unrecorded men and women who imitated the example of Jesus Christ and lived in isolation as hermits in the wilderness, dedicating their entire life to prayer and good words.
The first recorded Christian hermit is St. Paul of Thebes, who was born in 227 in Egypt. He initially went to the desert to escape persecution, but then remained there as he drew closer to God. His example inspired St. Anthony the Great to embrace a similar life of solitary prayer in the desert around the year 270.
St. Anthony is generally regarded as the “Father of Monasticism” or “Father of All Monks,” as he attracted many followers who lived near him and learned his ways of Christian perfection. However, he did not establish any physical monastery, as his community created their own private cells around his, using nearby caves or small huts. It is believed that some of his initial followers established a monastery on the site of his burial in the 4th century.