Basil the Great vs. Antony of Egypt

Welcome to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen! After sixteen bruising, gut-wrenching, heart-pounding battles, we have cut the field of 32 saints in half. We’ve already seen our fair share of hotly contested match-ups, blow-outs, and Cinderellas and we’re only half-way through the bracket. Lent Madness, like Lent, is part endurance race and we encourage those who have come thus far — both voters and contestants — to buckle down for the duration and, in the words of Saint Paul, “Run with perseverance the race that is set before you.”

In this round, we move past basic biographies and delve into what we like to call “Quirks and Quotes.” We’ll learn some unusual facts about our saints and hear about them, either in their own words or in words uttered or written about them. Some of our holy men and women are quirkier than others and some are more quotable. As always, remember these match-ups are neither fair nor for the faint of heart. If you want a bland Lenten devotion you’ve come to the wrong place.

Yesterday’s Round of 32 ended with the biggest rout of 2014 with Charles Wesley throttling his brother John 80% to 20%. As you make your informed and never irrational choices from here on out, you can always refresh your memory with the first round bios conveniently housed under the bracket tab by Bracket Czar Adam Thomas. Just click the appropriate links for the first round match-ups. Adam has also updated the Match-Up Calendar so you can see precisely when all the Saintly Sixteen action will take place. Print it out and staple it to your refrigerator!

We kick thing off with Basil the Great vs. Antony of Egypt. In the last round Basil defeated Christina the Astonishing while Antony turned back Mary of Egypt. Away we go!

saint_basil_the_great_smBasil the Great

Basil (330-379) was a prolific writer and preacher. His numerous writings included a treatise on the Holy Spirit; a Lenten series on Creation; writings on the Psalter; sermons on living the Christian life; liturgies and prayers; and hundreds of letters. Essentially, he was a one-man Forward Movement Tract* Rack. A few selections include: 

How to Pray

Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God. But we do not restrict this request simply to what is stated in words. We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but also through the attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions we do in our life. This is how you pray continually — not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer.

Praying Daily

When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking God for being so generous to you. If you drink wine (or coffee), be mindful of God who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank God for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who ordered things this way. When the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.

 On Attachment to Possessions

The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.

Basil lived what he preached. He ate a bare minimum of food, just enough to survive. He owned only the clothes on his back and used any money he acquired to help the poor and needy. 

Lest anyone think Basil was all sweetness and light, he challenged an entire faction of the Church, including an emperor. When the Emperor’s prefect demanded Basil support the Arian heresy or risk torture, exile, and death, Basil’s response was essentially, “Hit me with your best shot,” although much more eloquent. When the prefect, stunned by Basil’s defiance, said he’d never heard a bishop speak like that to him, Basil simply replied, “Perhaps you’ve never met a real bishop before.”

Drop. Microphone.

And forever inspire the Church.

*Tracts are small pamphlets that offer insight and information about all things Episcopal. The quotes are not verbatim, either. 

— Laurie Brock

unnamedAntony of Egypt

In our first encounter with Antony we saw him sell all of his inheritance, ensure the safety of his younger sister (who later became a “guiding spirit” to other virgins), move out to the desert, wage intense battle with demons, and staunchly defend orthodoxy before his death as an old man.

St. Antony’s biographer, the bishop Athanasius, tells us that when Antony addressed would be monks, he reminded them that “The whole of [a person’s] life is very short measured by the ages to come, so that all our time is as nothing compared to eternal life.” Antony himself lived by this code. It was not enough to give up all he owned, he had to be a “martyr to his conscience” daily (Martin Luther would be proud). To aid in this “[Antony] fasted continually, his clothing was hair on the inside while the outside was skin” and “he never bathed his body in water to remove filth.”

In the Sayings of the Fathers it is reported that a man wished to become a monk. After selling all his possessions but keeping some of the proceeds for himself, he came to Antony. Antony instructed him to go to the local village, buy meat, and attach it to his bare body. The man did so and was hounded by birds and wild animals the entire walk back, his body in tatters from the beasts. Antony looked at him and declared, “Those who have renounced the world but wish to have money are thus attacked and massacred by the demons.”

Speaking of demons, Antony’s many nights in the tombs resisting devils produced a demonology that puts Frank Peretti to shame. Space only allows a brief mention of his battle with an enormously tall demon named Providence. Although demons appear full of confusion, crashing, roaring, and shouting, all Antony had to do to banish his foe was blow a breath at it, speak the name of Christ, and make an effort to strike it. The enemy, along with his fellow demons, vanished in a jiffy.

Antony also had a way with animals. Once when he had planted a garden, wild animals continued to damage the beds. With tact that would make Francis of Assisi jealous, Antony gently caught one of the animals and announced to the other beasts, “Why do you do harm to me when I harm none of you? Go away, and in the Lord’s name do not come near these things again!” He was never bothered by the vermin again. Not even a ferret.

Antony firmly believed in the inherent goodness of human beings. He reminds us, “When you hear the word virtue mentioned, do not be afraid of it or treat it as a foreign word. Really it is not far from us, nor is its home apart from us; no the thing is within us, and its accomplishment is easy if we but have the will.”

Finally, I leave you with the little known fact about Antony’s diet. It is reported by his biographer Davidicus that, in addition to his simple meals of bread and water, he used to eat basil for breakfast.

— David Creech


Basil the Great vs. Antony of Egypt

  • Basil the Great (87%, 4,305 Votes)
  • Antony of Egypt (13%, 643 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,947

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129 Comments to "Basil the Great vs. Antony of Egypt"

  1. Robin's Gravatar Robin
    March 27, 2014 - 8:16 am | Permalink

    “… he used to eat basil for breakfast” —- very sly – holy basil, I assume.

    • Bet Byrd's Gravatar Bet Byrd
      March 27, 2014 - 1:21 pm | Permalink


    • Laura's Gravatar Laura
      March 27, 2014 - 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. Wonderfully sly. Made me giggle!

  2. Barbara Mays-Stock's Gravatar Barbara Mays-Stock
    March 27, 2014 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Well, the only thing I liked about Antony was the sentence that mentioned that he firmly believed in the inherent goodness of human nature. Other than that, it was Basil all the way. And I imagine that basil helped the bread and water a great deal.

    • Roslyn's Gravatar Roslyn
      March 27, 2014 - 10:39 am | Permalink

      Agreed, Barbara. Not quite ready to vote for someone who never washed the filth off his body. Of course, he lived in the desert, but still – had had water to drink 😉 A little could have gone to cleanliness even if it’s next to godliness. And a bit cruel?

  3. March 27, 2014 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Well, as long as Antony doesn’t eat Basil for lunch.

  4. lucia's Gravatar lucia
    March 27, 2014 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    … that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer. How beautiful is that?! Go Basil!

    • rellingrw's Gravatar rellingrw
      March 27, 2014 - 8:54 am | Permalink

      Yes, that line caught my attention to. I have never read continuous prayer explained so eloquently.

      • March 27, 2014 - 9:12 am | Permalink

        You are so right in my way of thinking. His explaining of continuous prayer was eloquent and made sense. It is a beautiful way to honor God and be thankful for His goodness.

      • Ann Shelly's Gravatar Ann Shelly
        March 27, 2014 - 10:04 am | Permalink

        This is the best statement about prayer I have read. Basil was also outspoken in a very good way (with a little “snipe” included.

      • Ann's Gravatar Ann
        March 27, 2014 - 7:16 pm | Permalink


  5. Kathy Munroe's Gravatar Kathy Munroe
    March 27, 2014 - 8:27 am | Permalink

    I am guessing Antony did not coin the phrase ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’. Basil has my vote!

    • Patty's Gravatar Patty
      March 27, 2014 - 9:53 am | Permalink

      I know. I can’t support someone who can’t bathe regularly.

      • Tessa Lucero's Gravatar Tessa Lucero
        March 27, 2014 - 10:16 am | Permalink

        I suspect most of the medieval European saints fall into the category of “didn’t bathe regularly”. In their defense, records show that it was cold and damp most of the time for a lot of that period, and bathing and washing one’s clothes become a lot less attractive when the bathing is done in cold water in an unheated room and the clothes are unlikely to be dry before being put back on again.

        I do think Antony is given a more favourable writeup today — but I am still voting for Basil to advance.

        • Miranda's Gravatar Miranda
          March 27, 2014 - 10:21 am | Permalink

          There is a big difference between not bathing regularly and “never bathing in water”. Basil gets my vote as well, but more for his scholarship and humility than lack of smell.

        • Christine's Gravatar Christine
          March 27, 2014 - 10:06 pm | Permalink

          Ahem. basil and Anthony were not medieval.
          They lived a 1000 years before during the Roman Empire.
          The Romans are still famous for their bath houses. Built them everywhere they conquered.
          I suspect that according to the high sanitary standards of the time, Anthony was considered odd.

  6. Mary Smith's Gravatar Mary Smith
    March 27, 2014 - 8:33 am | Permalink

    In today’s world, I hope we would get Antony the help he needed. Sounds like he was one scary person. Yay Basil!

  7. Chrisin NY's Gravatar Chrisin NY
    March 27, 2014 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    It seems that Basil is making an early rout of Antony. (But I appreciate the better light shone on Antony in this round- taking into consideration our more modern sensibilities re placement of his sister).

  8. Greg's Gravatar Greg
    March 27, 2014 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    Bishop biographers writing words about a man. Basil shows us the way without words. Then, responding to his astonished emperor, he answers “perhaps you never met a real bishop.”
    Basil all the way!

  9. Joy Segal's Gravatar Joy Segal
    March 27, 2014 - 8:39 am | Permalink

    Love Basil – his life, his work, his words. He’s named Great for all the right reasons. My vote is his.

  10. Thomas Van Brunt's Gravatar Thomas Van Brunt
    March 27, 2014 - 8:45 am | Permalink

    Guilty as charged. Basil

  11. Mary Lysbeth Andrews's Gravatar Mary Lysbeth Andrews
    March 27, 2014 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    But Antony was so GOOD to his sister, that was a big plus for me.

  12. Julie Zdenek's Gravatar Julie Zdenek
    March 27, 2014 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    Davidicus: Even though I’m a fan of your writing, delicious wit, AND I’m your M-I-L, I have to cast my vote for Basil. I think Antony needs a shrink and medication. 😛

    • Pat (the Celt)'s Gravatar Pat (the Celt)
      March 27, 2014 - 9:29 am | Permalink

      …and how about a bath? Probably the real reason the animals stayed away from his garden…….

      • March 27, 2014 - 11:05 am | Permalink

        Made me laugh out loud. Always the best medicine. Yes, Basil it is today!

  13. John Lewis's Gravatar John Lewis
    March 27, 2014 - 9:00 am | Permalink

    Antony’s exemplary life, perhaps embellished by his admirers, was a bit too showy for my taste. Basil had me at his crack about meeting a real bishop.

  14. Mary's Gravatar Mary
    March 27, 2014 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    I loved Basil’s prayers. He has my vote!

  15. Peggy's Gravatar Peggy
    March 27, 2014 - 9:09 am | Permalink

    Anyone who wears a hair shirt loses my vote.

  16. Lauren Stanley's Gravatar Lauren Stanley
    March 27, 2014 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    A real bishop – works for me!

  17. Roy Te Turner's Gravatar Roy Te Turner
    March 27, 2014 - 9:15 am | Permalink

    “..the shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the barefoot..”
    Easy choice today.

  18. Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
    March 27, 2014 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    Hi Cynthia! It looks like Basil’s chowing on Anthony at this point.

  19. Another Peg's Gravatar Another Peg
    March 27, 2014 - 9:23 am | Permalink

    “Wow, Anthony, your breath could knock a demon off a tombstone!” Also, I’m not sure the Lady Gaga meat suit is the most effective way to teach a lesson on selfishness. Both men are holy and modest and disciplined, but Basil’s writings and resolve win my vote today.

    • Another Peg's Gravatar Another Peg
      March 27, 2014 - 9:25 am | Permalink

      Sorry about that–Antony.

    • Katherine's Gravatar Katherine
      March 27, 2014 - 1:35 pm | Permalink

      A double victory for the “your breath could knock a demon off a tombstone” comment combined with the Lady Gaga reference. Too funny!

  20. Elaine Hood Culver's Gravatar Elaine Hood Culver
    March 27, 2014 - 9:29 am | Permalink

    I voted, but the system pulled an Antony and ate my vote for Basil for breakfast. My vote wasn’t recorded, and the “Vote” feature appeared again. In order not to be hounded by demons for committing fraud, I’ll sit this one out. Besides, the contest is running 88% for the Real Bishop anyway.
    That said, Antony deserves credit for creativity and downright chutzpah for the object lesson he gave his would-be disciple. This is one lesson no one would ever forget.

    • Mike Essig's Gravatar Mike Essig
      March 27, 2014 - 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Maybe Anony is ahead because everyone voted twice ?!?

  21. Diane Lynch's Gravatar Diane Lynch
    March 27, 2014 - 9:33 am | Permalink

    Eat, Pray, Love– and like my Grandmom used to say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Basil the Fragrant gets my vote.

  22. March 27, 2014 - 9:33 am | Permalink

    I love the last line of “eating basil for breakfast.” But Basil seems to be devouring Antony. I did my part to help that cause.

  23. Fiona Haworth's Gravatar Fiona Haworth
    March 27, 2014 - 9:37 am | Permalink

    The lack of washing on Anthony’s part was a disappointment. But a Bishop with attitude? Basil gets my vote.

  24. Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
    March 27, 2014 - 9:38 am | Permalink

    No to Anthony the stinky!!! I’ve sat next to enough “fragrant” people on the bus to know how disgusting this can be. Go Basil!

  25. Susan Fiore's Gravatar Susan Fiore
    March 27, 2014 - 9:47 am | Permalink

    Assuming this bio isn’t rigged against him, Antony is my worst nightmare for a spiritual guide. Basil, on the other hand, is . . . Great. His prayers are keepers. And he’s awesome for showing what real courage looks like in standing your ground! Like his role model, Jesus.

  26. EEM's Gravatar EEM
    March 27, 2014 - 9:50 am | Permalink

    My daughter and I love the audacity of Antony. The meat suit! Catching and talking to animals! Basil gets his weekly shout out with the creed. Give us more Antonies (Antonyes? Antonys?)

  27. Alan C's Gravatar Alan C
    March 27, 2014 - 9:53 am | Permalink

    “Perhaps you’ve never met a real bishop before.” BURN! I appreciated Basil’s teachings on prayer and thought Antony was just a little too close to the border between saintliness and mental illness for my taste.

  28. JoAnn Lumley's Gravatar JoAnn Lumley
    March 27, 2014 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    Basil, Basil he’s our man, if he can’t win it, I wonder who can!

  29. March 27, 2014 - 9:56 am | Permalink

    Go Basil!! BTW, I LOVE the smell of basil, Antony sounds disgusting!

  30. Snacktime's Gravatar Snacktime
    March 27, 2014 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    “The money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor.” Who today (or ever) is ready to take that to heart?

    It was a tough choice. Both were holy people with very different callings. It’s easy to make fun of ascetics, but I appreciate the intensity of their desire for God alone. Our obsession with wealth is a spiritual sickness, and ascetics are unwelcome reminders of that.

  31. Karen's Gravatar Karen
    March 27, 2014 - 9:59 am | Permalink

    Love the quotes from Basil! Got my vote right away – and then when I read that Antony never bathed … well … even if he did eat basil for breakfast I can’t vote for filth.

  32. Katrina Soto's Gravatar Katrina Soto
    March 27, 2014 - 9:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the wonderful quotes from Basil. No wonder he’s “the great.” He so closely models Christ’s messages. And very Benedictine, too. Today’s write up was truly inspiring to me. Again, thanks. And if anyone says that Lent Madness is trivial and silly, this should put the kibosh on that nonsense.

    • Christine's Gravatar Christine
      March 27, 2014 - 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Basil is The Great because he preserved the doctrine of the Diety of Christ, when the Arians were trying to make Jesus a created being.
      This is a foundational issue of Christianity.
      Yes, basil’s writings are inspiring, but
      Christianity would not exist today if Basil had not prevailed against the infamous Arian heresy.

  33. Emily's Gravatar Emily
    March 27, 2014 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    It is easy to to be turned off by Antony’s strangeness but I wonder what we would say of John the Baptist, depending on how he were described? I appreciate Snacktime’s insight about ascetics’ intensity. T0day the beauty of Basil’s words gets my vote.

    • Anne T's Gravatar Anne T
      March 27, 2014 - 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I’m beginning to think that it’s Lent Hygiene this time. I’m going with Basil, but not as you say it’s his words and teachings, not because of Antony’s bathing habits. Enough already about that.

  34. Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
    March 27, 2014 - 10:13 am | Permalink

    Um, sorry, I meant “antony” not “anthony”. Dadblame persnickety.

  35. March 27, 2014 - 10:15 am | Permalink

    This time, I’m afraid Vasil’s going to have Antony for breakfast.

  36. JenniferThomasina's Gravatar JenniferThomasina
    March 27, 2014 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    Antony today (despite Basil’s wonderful ‘best of’ write-up) for the great visual — talk about “Where the Wild Things Are”!
    Also his commitment to water resource conservation and his ‘green’ approach to pest eradication.

  37. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 27, 2014 - 10:32 am | Permalink

    Basil the Great is great! Antony is NASTY!

  38. Ellen Lincourt's Gravatar Ellen Lincourt
    March 27, 2014 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    Phew! Two days in a row when the choice has been easy….. But I don’t expect it to last. Go Basil!

  39. Jude's Gravatar Jude
    March 27, 2014 - 10:40 am | Permalink

    Basil the Great? I’m going to call him Basil the Snarky! Wise words, wonderfully modeled – and always with a great retort – he gets my vote!

  40. Denise Erickson's Gravatar Denise Erickson
    March 27, 2014 - 10:48 am | Permalink

    Poor Antony. If he had only bathed and gotten some help for his demon issues, he’d be more honored as a holy person. Taking care of his sister like he did was enough of a saintly act. Basil’s teachings, especially on prayer, have won my vote.

  41. Linda's Gravatar Linda
    March 27, 2014 - 10:49 am | Permalink

    Glad I wasn’t the only one who thought Antony must have been crazy as a bed bug in addition to being covered with them!!

  42. March 27, 2014 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    I still can’t believe that Anthony beat Mary in the first round. Glad that Basil is winning this round. Love what he says about praying without ceasing.

  43. Jane C's Gravatar Jane C
    March 27, 2014 - 10:53 am | Permalink

    Wikipedia says this about Antony: “Anthony is appealed to against infectious diseases, particularly skin diseases.” He probably was quite familiar with wirh this subject due to not bathing, and wearing his clothes hair side in. One might assume he didn’t exactly keep a clean house and had plenty of critters around. If so, was hen in touch with fellow saint, Dominic Silos, patron saint of insect infestations? I’m voting for Basil. Antony is too close to, if not over, the edge.

    • Jane C's Gravatar Jane C
      March 27, 2014 - 10:57 am | Permalink

      Oops, “he”, not “hen”. If he ever had a hen she was probably smart enough to leave with the critters he cast out of his garden.

  44. James Goodmann's Gravatar James Goodmann
    March 27, 2014 - 10:53 am | Permalink

    Just remembering Anthony from Athanasius’s Life of St Anthony and recounting of the same in Invitation to Love by Thomas Keating. I think Anthony may have a perpetual minority following but is worth considering, not least for his sense of humor, a trait he shared with the other “desert dwellers.”

  45. Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
    March 27, 2014 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    Yes Amy, I agree. One can pray anywhere, anytime. I’ve prayed in the shower, doing laundry, doing dishes, taking out the trash, etc. Etc.etc etc!

  46. aleathia (dolores)nicholson's Gravatar aleathia (dolores)nicholson
    March 27, 2014 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    If you wanna refrain from bathing, that’s your choice but to do a Lady gaga and tell someone else to wear a meat suit and then look on as they struggle back nearly eaten alive…..??? Too much ! And I never recovered from the treatment of his sister…she had no choice in his decision supposedly on her behalf for her own good. PUH-LEESE !! Basil all the way.

    • Jonathan's Gravatar Jonathan
      March 27, 2014 - 11:48 am | Permalink

      I’m still not sure if we actually know that “she had no choice in his decision.” Unless someone has cited something stating otherwise, why assume she had no part in it? Just as easy to assume she felt that as a call as well and preferred to freedom of service to God from having to marry and being under the subjugation of her husband.

      • Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
        March 27, 2014 - 3:30 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and the idea of vocation is not too well understood in our century. Follow your dream is a constant refrain these days. The notion of seeking what God wants you to do is not even on the table . For some people, vocation is important, but for many, vocation is absent from the cultural landscape . So, that is to say, it’s difficult for us to get into the centuries old cultural mindsets.

        • Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
          March 27, 2014 - 5:50 pm | Permalink

          In response to Aleathia and Jonathan:
          Type in “Antony Internet History Sourcebooks”. That will lead you to Antony’s bio by Athanasius. In paragraph 54 of this bio it says “Antony also rejoiced when he beheld the earnestness of the monks, and his sister grown old in virginity, and that she herself also was the leader of other virgins.”
          So she did indeed feel a call to the monastic life herself and said “Yes” to that call.
          Also, those were good observations, Ginny. Getting into a mindset even a century old is difficult, much less almost two thousand years.

          • Christine's Gravatar Christine
            March 27, 2014 - 9:52 pm | Permalink

            Yes regarding the difficulty of understanding the mindset of earlier times.
            Also realize that not only were anthony and his sister raised in pious Christian homes, but living in a nunnery or monastery was a good option considering the era.
            A roof over one’s head, food on the table, like minded companionship, a garden to tend,
            time to spend on worship, prayer, and scripture reading, etc
            Why are so many people on this site treating it like a prison sentence?

    • Freeman Gilbert's Gravatar Freeman Gilbert
      March 27, 2014 - 9:22 pm | Permalink

      well we don’t know how old she was, other than knowing that she was very young. She could have been 3 or 8 or 13. Best not to impugn with little information.

  47. Phil's Gravatar Phil
    March 27, 2014 - 10:59 am | Permalink

    I talk to my cat all the time, but he is a Siamese cat and they “talk”! But a ferret, I doubt if a ferret would be so completely understanding …. I voted for Basil!

  48. March 27, 2014 - 11:11 am | Permalink

    Hilarity and snarkiness abound today … who says Lent can’t be fun?
    As I’ve already said earlier (multiple comments are OK, right? just not multiple votes?), it’s Basil for me.
    The meat suit and the sister deal still have me confounded by Antony.

  49. Betsey's Gravatar Betsey
    March 27, 2014 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    Antony had my vote with “Antony firmly believed in the inherent goodness of human beings.” But eating basil for breakfast just cracked me up, too! 🙂

    • Mary Wueste's Gravatar Mary Wueste
      March 27, 2014 - 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, on both counts! People tell me that war, lying, etc. are “just human nature” and can’t be changed, and I say we have Good in us too, and the free will to choose it! I voted for Antony because of that quote, otherwise I don’t know how I would have chosen between them.

  50. Lana Whited's Gravatar Lana Whited
    March 27, 2014 - 11:18 am | Permalink

    Something about that story of Antony’s directing the would-be monk to attach meat to his bare body reminded me of Lady GaGa and the meat dress. Although I get the point of the metaphor, that image is really disgusting and undercuts Antony’s emphasis on not being wasteful.

  51. March 27, 2014 - 11:19 am | Permalink

    Part of my work at the church is to provide financial and other assistance to those in need. That includes people who’s hygiene does not meet my standards. It seems that I tend to learn the most about myself and caring for others when I the time to talk to these folks…even though I have to open a window when they leave. I suspect that I would learn a lot from Anthony if he stopped by my office!

    • Another Peg's Gravatar Another Peg
      March 27, 2014 - 11:48 am | Permalink

      He would be blessed to you know, as are those with whom you work.

      • Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
        March 27, 2014 - 3:42 pm | Permalink


  52. Jane's Gravatar Jane
    March 27, 2014 - 11:21 am | Permalink

    But Antony defeated demons by breathing the name of Christ! That is some serious Holy Spirit.

  53. Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
    March 27, 2014 - 11:24 am | Permalink

    What’s the big deal over Antony not bathing? In his day it was a common practice of Christians wishing to live the ascetic life. Antony was living in the culture of his times, and that doesn’t make him a freak.
    That being said, I voted for Basil. His care for the poor, his courage, and his spirituality are truly inspiring.

  54. Martie Collins's Gravatar Martie Collins
    March 27, 2014 - 11:31 am | Permalink

    I’ll take quotable over quirky, though I loved hearing about Anthony.

  55. llr's Gravatar llr
    March 27, 2014 - 11:32 am | Permalink

    Super Spiritual Snark

  56. Steve B's Gravatar Steve B
    March 27, 2014 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    I felt just the opposite of a couple others. *Basil* had my vote with “Antony firmly believed in the inherent goodness of human beings.”

  57. randy's Gravatar randy
    March 27, 2014 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    you did not give any of the astounding things anthony said. approached by a young monk who wanted to find a master he agreed with, anthony responded something to the effect of you do not want to worship God but your own image of God. find a man who is orthodox but differs and you may actually get close to God. at one time or the other we all get stuck with our own version of God.

  58. Jonathan's Gravatar Jonathan
    March 27, 2014 - 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Basil because he has been a favorite guide and mentor to me for a long time.

    Was tempted to vote for Antony just to be contrary though.

    I know it’s Lent Madness, and any reason for a vote is reason enough, but I am a little distraught over the disrespect and (in my opinion) trite critiques of Antony.

    I’d invite anyone put off by him to spend some time studying the desert fathers and mothers. Christian faith looked a little different then and it was a critical time for the growth of our faith. Exaggerated hagiographies or not (and another thing I’m distraught over is some people’s concerns that a story or act was “factual,” which is beside the point in these stories,) these Saints of God were giants in the faith and we have so much to learn from them. Especially those of us Christians who are so privileged (i.e., most of us voting and posting,) with lives that often look very “secular” in spite of our professions and the teachings of the Gospel…it was a society like ours that the fathers and mothers sought to critique by their retreat to the desert!

    • Carolyn's Gravatar Carolyn
      March 27, 2014 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Jonathan for expressing my thoughts so well!

    • Mark D.'s Gravatar Mark D.
      March 27, 2014 - 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear!

    • Bonnee's Gravatar Bonnee
      March 27, 2014 - 3:45 pm | Permalink


    • Bowman's Gravatar Bowman
      March 27, 2014 - 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Holiness of life, Jonathan, is counter-cultural, and it may be too hot for The Episcopal Church to handle. HWHM diluted the concept. Forward Movement plays it for here laughs and publicity. Sybarites post nervous snark about lives that subvert their dependence on popularity and comfort. Still, it is heartening to read the comments of those who get it. You know who you are– thank you.

      • Christine's Gravatar Christine
        March 27, 2014 - 9:42 pm | Permalink

        Well said

  59. Kim Forbes's Gravatar Kim Forbes
    March 27, 2014 - 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I like my saints like I like my men: erudite, bathed, and not off fighting demons all night.

  60. Judith's Gravatar Judith
    March 27, 2014 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Basil: the sayings about prayer (coffee and all, duly noted) are wonderful; the “bread which you do not use…” is getting copied and put on my office door. Both sides.

    • Judith's Gravatar Judith
      March 27, 2014 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

      and probably all three as worthy additions to the worship booklet for the Diocese of Iowa Summer Ministries School and Retreat.

    • Bowman's Gravatar Bowman
      March 27, 2014 - 6:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Judith, Laurie Brock wisely let the saint speak for himself today.

  61. Virginia's Gravatar Virginia
    March 27, 2014 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    One memorable passage in St. Athanasius’ biography of Antony first reports the detail about how he wore skins and never bathed his body with water and then notes that numerous women, even some who were already betrothed, took one look at Antony and vowed perpetual virginity.
    This report did not unduly influence my vote for Basil. Both are now surrounded by the sweet odor of sanctity.

  62. Sally Duernberger's Gravatar Sally Duernberger
    March 27, 2014 - 12:48 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful explanation of continuous prayer! It goes right to the heart of the matter. I plan to read it aloud to the members of my Bible study class later today…unless one of them beats me to it. Such inspiration makes Lent Madness an excellent discipline in preparation for Easter.

  63. Anthony Lee's Gravatar Anthony Lee
    March 27, 2014 - 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Well, Basil wins in a landslide, but I’ve always rooted for the underdog, particularly when he’s my name-saint. I’ve always admired the Desert Fathers simply because their life style was so weirdly bizarre and socially unacceptable (as in not bathing). However, some of the extremes of asceticism strike even me as a little pathological. Hagiography has it that one of the Desert Fathers (I forget who) didn’t speak to anyone for twenty years. When I was young (and a little pathological myself), I thought it would be neat to be a hermit.

    • Katherine's Gravatar Katherine
      March 27, 2014 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Check out St. Simon Stylites!

  64. Katherine's Gravatar Katherine
    March 27, 2014 - 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I think the Roman Catholic take on the issue of non-bathing was that it would be a real penance — like not eating (much), not dating, not sleeping. etc. In short, it fit into the sorta masochistic “subdue the flesh” notions of the era. In other words — Antony might have been itching for a bath (pun intended) but felt it was virtuous to deny himself the pleasure. That would tend to make you a hermit, though… Whether you intended to be one or not.

  65. S. Christina's Gravatar S. Christina
    March 27, 2014 - 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Basil. His way of worship was beautifully stated. As for Anthony, I bet he could knock demons of with his breath. He wasn’t very fastidious about cleanliness!

  66. Sandy's Gravatar Sandy
    March 27, 2014 - 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Choosing was torture today. Two of my favorite people….
    As much as I love Antony (and wish more people had voted for him), I’m currently writing on Basil, and his homilies and other works are the perfect Lenten reading. Therefore he had to have my vote. (And for those interested in the scents of the ancient world, check out Susan Ashbrook Harvey’s Scenting Salvation.)

  67. Emily Agnew's Gravatar Emily Agnew
    March 27, 2014 - 3:12 pm | Permalink

    It is obviously not for all of us to live a life of extreme penance and physical self-mortification as Antony did. This obviously doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, if you are moved to, and I’m sure there must be people for whom this is inspiring….but as a householder looking for ways to live spiritually in the world, where the use of money is necessary, I find the words of Basil more personally applicable.

  68. Corry W.'s Gravatar Corry W.
    March 27, 2014 - 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Basil had me at “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry…” What a beautiful and compelling quote!

  69. Dorine's Gravatar Dorine
    March 27, 2014 - 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I like theologians and writers. I think being filthy is a false piety. I love the explanation of praying without ceasing. Basil all the way.

  70. Glenis Elliott's Gravatar Glenis Elliott
    March 27, 2014 - 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Took some thought and prayers, but Basil finally won my vote! Know particular reason, but felt this was the best choice for me.

  71. Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
    March 27, 2014 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Basil. Probably because I understand his spiritual directions regarding continual prayer and recognizing the needs of others.

  72. martha's Gravatar martha
    March 27, 2014 - 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Poor Antony. So ridiculed for his non-use of water to bathe. Did you know sand works well to remove filth from the body? Does a marvelous job as an exfoliant,too. 😉

  73. David+'s Gravatar David+
    March 27, 2014 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Hear, Hear! – for the post by Jonathan above!

  74. Tara Soughers's Gravatar Tara Soughers
    March 27, 2014 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I assume someone on the SEC really wants Basil to win, as he was also a contender in 2011.

  75. john's Gravatar john
    March 27, 2014 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised at how shallow and silly many of the comments are, especially in reference to St. Antony. He was the FIRST desert father, one who turned his back on the secular world and sought God as his primary life function! Thus jump starting the monastic tradition- which saved Christan and western culture during the Dark Ages. Also no one has commented on how important St. Basil was in the defeat of the Arian Heresy. If a few courageous and faith filled souls hadn’t opposed this incredibly popular teaching we would have a much different faith today. Thank God for both men.

    • Betsey's Gravatar Betsey
      March 27, 2014 - 5:05 pm | Permalink

      “Thank God for both men.”

      “Hear! Hear!”

    • Christine's Gravatar Christine
      March 27, 2014 - 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes, yes, and yes

  76. JAMG's Gravatar JAMG
    March 27, 2014 - 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Should have voted for Antony since he ate” basil for breakfast.” But I voted for the eaten Basil. – I’m still chuckling.

  77. Laura's Gravatar Laura
    March 27, 2014 - 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Loved Basil’s quotes–some new to me, others familiar–all challenging. Coupled with Antony dumping his sister off in a “house of virgins,” made this an easy choice.
    While I can appreciate that Antony was the father of monasticism, I couldn’t get past (both voting times) his treatment of his sister. I know I’m looking back on someone almost 1800 years ago through a 21at century lens, and I own this.

    • Christine's Gravatar Christine
      March 27, 2014 - 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes. They were both wealthy orphans when Anthony was 20.
      Anthony gave away their inheritance without setting aside a dowry to make a good marriage for his sister.
      Their parents were both devote Christians, so it’s very possible Anthony’s sister was happy with the plan. Both played a roll in the early days of monasticism.

  78. Rev. Lucy Porter's Gravatar Rev. Lucy Porter
    March 27, 2014 - 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Basil because of prayers and herbs.

  79. Betsy Marsh's Gravatar Betsy Marsh
    March 27, 2014 - 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Basil got my vote with “the shoes you do not wear are the shoes of one who is barefoot”. It’s a reminder to get those shoes, clothes, etc, out of my house to people who need them.

  80. deacon georgia's Gravatar deacon georgia
    March 27, 2014 - 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Everyone enjoy the feast day of Charles Henry Brent. Oh, I’m sorry, he already lost in the first round. Although I can’t believe how everyone is still hanging on to Antony’s alleged mistreatment of his sister, I have to go with Basil. It’s amazing how his prayer on attachment to possessions still rings so very true today.

  81. Phil's Gravatar Phil
    March 27, 2014 - 8:19 pm | Permalink

    The number of people commenting on Antony’s hygiene practices is interesting. People from antiquity would probably consider our practices as funny — they would wonder about our “excessive” bathing and why we would want to constantly wash off the oils on our skin and rub off the superficial layer of the skin the way we do. I say that not in defense of Antony, merely that it is interesting how things change. We certainly know a lot more about the transmission of disease and that is a huge influence on our behavior over that of people from antiquity. Also none but the rich could afford essential oils and perfumes to put on themselves.

    Even trying to understand the cultural differences, however, I see Antony as eccentric in ways that do not make me like him any better. Neither one of these guys had a clue about proper nutrition. On the other hand, neither was likely to have weight problems like we contend with!

    I remain skeptical of Antony’s “interaction” with the animals who were harming his garden, and his “interactions” with demons make me think of people I have met with various forms of psychiatric disease …..

    On the other hand, I do like Basil’s comments on prayer in many ways, and while I don’t think that we have to give away multiple pairs of shoes or reduce our clothing to what is on our backs as Basil did, I agree that we all need to learn to be more charitable with others who have less than we do. I have dreamed my whole life of a world where we reach out a helping hand to our neighbors, because it is only together that we can get through life. We live to much in a every man or woman for themselves! Basil had a better idea how we should behave towards each other. That’s why I voted for him.

    And knowing something about biology and animal behavior, I still have my doubts about the ferret leaving the garden and taking all of the other pests with him! Sorry, Antony, Basil got my vote — you seem a little nutty!

  82. Christine's Gravatar Christine
    March 27, 2014 - 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Basil The Great, defender of the faith against the Arian heresy.
    Basil prevailed against the new teachings that Jesus (2nd Person of the Trinity), was a good man and not Divine.
    Anthony and the desert fathers started the monastic movement which preserved the faith through the Dark Ages, but without Basil’s perseverance, there wouldn’t have been a Christian faith to preserve.

  83. Lucretia Jevne's Gravatar Lucretia Jevne
    March 27, 2014 - 9:22 pm | Permalink

    “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

    Would that we we all take Basil’s words into our hearts and minds and really practice them! He gets my vote this time around.

    • Phil's Gravatar Phil
      March 27, 2014 - 9:53 pm | Permalink


    • Glenis Elliott's Gravatar Glenis Elliott
      March 28, 2014 - 7:34 am | Permalink

      I soooo agree with Lucretia!!!!

  84. James Oppenheimer's Gravatar James Oppenheimer
    March 27, 2014 - 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Both worthy of The Halo. Hard to decide.

    These men are very different but the same in many respects, or, if you wish, they are very much the same, but in different respects.

  85. Carol Virginia's Gravatar Carol Virginia
    March 27, 2014 - 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Life may be relatively short, indeed, but you all add so much to its immeasurable richness, and we don’t need money for that. Here’s to you! Many thanks. And let the band (church organ) play on!

  86. Leonora's Gravatar Leonora
    March 27, 2014 - 10:58 pm | Permalink

    We all need to leave the society of others to learn that God doesn’t care how we smell. And God hears all prayers, wherever they are offered.

  87. mary w's Gravatar mary w
    March 27, 2014 - 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Davidicus and pesto references aside (but I did appreciate that), I’m going with Basil.

  88. Becky's Gravatar Becky
    March 29, 2014 - 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I won’t say Basil didn’t deserve to win, but Anthony didn’t deserve to lose based on his hygiene. And it’s depressing that so many people expressly didn’t vote for him because he might have been mentally ill– and surprising that no one called foul about this (even his lack of baths got more of a defense). Maybe he did experience life through the lens of a chemical imbalance in the brain, but God was no less able to work through him. And when we experience difficulties in life, yes, the impulse to seek healing is not to be disparaged, but when it is not forthcoming, we may also find a calling from God (and another form of healing) in suffering with good humor (as Anthony seems to have).

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