John the Dwarf

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St Antony (251—356)


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(5th century),

hermit. When young he went to the Egyptian desert of Skete to become a hermit. He believed that monastic perfection consists in keeping to the cell and having God continually present in his mind. Indifferent to ‘news’ and phenomenally absent-minded, he seems to have had no idea of time. He was highly reputed by his fellow monks and helped to train the great Arsenius, a former courtier who became a monk, by treating him with near-contempt. The story that John, when a novice, watered a dead stick every day under obedience until it brought forth fruit in the third year is very likely a story invented in monastic circles to illustrate the principle of obedience. His last words are said to have been: ‘I never followed my own will, nor did I ever teach another what I had not practised first myself.’ He fled in the Berber invasions across the Nile and died in the place hallowed by Antony. Feast: 17 October.

AA.SS. Oct. VIII (1853), 31–48; Apothegmata Patrum in P.G., lxv. 125–8; B.L.S., x. 116–17; Bibl. SS., vi. 666–9.

Subjects: Christianity.

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