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Struggle against demons to grow in holiness, Pope says

Pope Francis blesses the faithful at the end of his weekly general audience at Paul-VI hall

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 01/17/24

Today's saint is a great example of how the spiritual life is a battle, and that we have God's constant presence to help us win.
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Pope Francis, who has often spoken about Satan and his tactics, offered a reminder this January 17 that those who want to grow in holiness must be ready to struggle against demons.

The Pope said this in a brief comment about today’s saint, St. Anthony Abbot, when he was greeting language groups at the end of the general audience. The Pope’s audiences are right now being dedicated to the theme of virtues and vices.

St. Anthony the Abbot (sometimes called St. Anthony of Egypt or St. Anthony the Great), was inspired by the Gospels to sell all his possessions and live a life of solitude in the Egyptian desert. He established for himself a quiet hermitage away from the world, but he wasn’t able to escape from his most persistent enemy.

Since the devil couldn’t turn Anthony away from God through the riches of the world, he would try to attack him both physically and spiritually

St. Athanasius records several of these encounters in his Life of St. Anthony.

After failing to tempt him with the lure of wealth, the devil “attacked the young man, disturbing him by night and harassing him by day, so that even the onlookers saw the struggle which was going on between them.” After each temptation, however, St. Anthony would “fortify his body with faith, prayers, and fasting.”

Thus the Pope drew from the example of this great saint to recall how his life “shows us how the spiritual struggle against demons and sin is indispensable for growing in holiness.”

“We therefore implore the Lord’s continued help in winning this battle,” the Pope concluded.

Patron of animals

In addition to being famous for his fights agains the devil, St. Anthony is known in many countries as a patron of animals.

This is because in his desert life, he drew on God’s creation in the natural world as a fount of inspiration and wisdom.

In fact, St. Anthony the Abbot is usually portrayed with a pig. This is because of various traditions. One notable link is one of his patronages: The Hospitallers of St. Anthony of the Middle Ages cared for the poor in urban areas. To finance their charity, they raised swine, which led to Anthony often being depicted in art with a pig.

But as well, tradition tells of a pig that he healed, as well as animals that helped him keep his hours of prayer.

Take some time of prayer to St. Anthony to gain strength in the battles of the spiritual life with this icon:

AnimalsPope FrancisSaintsSatan
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