It is beginning to be commonplace, as I learn from reading the daily obituaries for my town, to find more than one – several usually – deceased persons who lived to be over 100 years of age. For some it is “the miracle of modern medicine” that has allowed them to reach a “ripe old age.” For some it is what we call “good genes” and for others it is probably the way they have lived their lives physically, spiritually and mentally. Most likely, for many, it is a combination of those factors.
It is rather startling, however, to read the life of St. Anthony of Egypt and find that his life span was from 251 to 356 CE – yes, that’s 105 years! He was a hermit who desired to give himself totally to God. He did live a solitary life in the desert in fasting and prayer but as Franciscan media tells us, “No saint is antisocial, and Anthony drew many people to himself for spiritual healing and guidance. What I like best in any description of his life is that he preferred “the book of nature” over the printed word. One can learn much from the the natural world, I believe, and the silence that he must have found undoubtedly led to an inner peace after his struggles with his “inner demons” were won.
We have no control, nor any prior knowledge, about the span of our lives. All we can do is to make sure that the quality of each day is the best we can offer to God. It seems that Anthony had ample time and many opportunities to do just that. Let us promise the same each day.