St. Anthony is regarded as one of the most important “Desert Fathers,” part of a group of hermits who dedicated themselves entirely to God in the Egyptian desert.
One of his secrets to holiness was his humility and his desire to imitate other people who were holier than himself.
This pattern can be seen early on in his life, as written down by St. Athanasius in Life of St. Anthony:
Now there was then in the next village an old man who had lived the life of a hermit from his youth up. Antony, after he had seen this man, imitated him in piety. And at first he began to abide in places outside the village: then if he heard of a good man anywhere, like the prudent bee, he went forth and sought him, nor turned back to his own palace until he had seen him; and he returned, having got from the good man as it were supplies for his journey in the way of virtue.
St. Anthony wasn’t satisfied with following one holy man, but sought out every holy man he heard of and imitated their virtue.
This spirit of humility lasted his entire life, and can be seen in his encounter with St. Paul the Hermit after many years of living in solitude in the desert.
If we want to be virtuous human beings, we need to learn humility and be willing to imitate others who are more virtuous than ourselves.
St. Anthony knew this simple truth and wasn’t afraid of being taught by others how to lead a life of holiness.