Saint Anthony, Patron Saint of Gravediggers

A brief profile of St. Anthony the Abbot

Saint Anthony, patron saint of gravediggers. Detail from a painting by Piero di Cosimo, c.1480, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

The Catholic Church venerates more than 10,000 men and women as saints so, not surprisingly, many unexpected objects, activities and even geographic areas, among numerous other things, are associated with specific patron saints. For example, St. Drogo is the patron saint of gallstones, St. Columbanus of motorcyclists, and St. Anselm of Lucca is the patron of Mantua, Italy (but not nearby Verona, apparently).

This article offers a brief profile of another Catholic saint, St. Anthony the Abbot, the patron saint of gravediggers.

The Life of St. Anthony
Born in Egypt near Thebes to a wealthy Christian family in A.D. 251, Anthony inherited his parents' estate when he was roughly 20 years old following their deaths. Soon after, he heard a verse from the Gospel of Matthew (19:21) that profoundly affected the wealthy young man: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

After ensuring for his sister's future by placing her in a "house of virgins" (i.e., a nunnery), Anthony gave away or sold the rest of his property and belongings, donated the proceeds to the poor, and became a hermit. For the next several decades, he lived in solitude and ate only bread, with a little salt, and drank only water. He left his self-imposed isolation only twice: to provide comfort, support and encouragement to Christian martyrs during their persecution under the reign of Emperor Gaius Valerius Galerius Maximinus, and to refute the Arians, who denied the triune nature of the Christian deity.

Near the end of his life (around the year 355), Anthony became friends with St. Paul the Hermit. After the latter's death, Anthony buried him -- reputedly with the help of two lions, who helped him dig the grave -- before he, himself, died at age 105 in the year 356.

"St. Drogo." Catholic Online.

Retrieved November 22, 2014.

"St. Columbanus." Catholic Online. Retrieved November 22, 2014.

"St. Anselm of Lucca." Catholic Online. Retrieved November 22, 2014.

"St. Anthony, Abbot, Patriarch of Monks A.D. 356," January 17, 1997. Catholic Information Network. Retrieved November 23, 2014.

"Saint Anthony the Abbot," October 16, 2000. Retrieved November 23, 2014.

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