Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Ammonius, Confessor

Saint Ammon the AnchoriteArticle

Saint Ammonius was born in a hamlet near Alexandria, the capital of Egypt, of indigent, but very pious parents. He became an orphan early; but the Almighty touched the heart of one of his uncles with compassion, who received Ammonius into his house and educated him in the fear of the Lord. When Ammonius had reached his 22d year, his benefactor desired him to marry a pious and wealthy virgin. Ammonius was greatly startled, as he had determined to live in celibacy; but his uncle urged him so long that he at length consented, fearing to offend his benefactor. He resolved, however, after the example of so many Saints, to live in perfect continency, hoping that God, who saw into his heart, would give him the grace to persuade his bride to make the same resolution; and to obtain this, he addressed fervent prayers to the Almighty. His hopes were not deceived; for, the first time he spoke with his bride alone, after the marriage ceremonies, he discovered to her his intention and represented so emphatically to her the inestimable value of virginal chastity, that she gladly consented to his wish. Ammonius rejoiced greatly and passed the whole night in prayer with her. Both prayed most earnestly to God, the protector of chastity, to give them grace to remain true to their promise: and the Almighty granted their prayer. They lived 22 years together in virginal chastity, and without ever revealing to any one in what manner they lived. After this time, they perceived an inner desire to serve the Lord still more perfectly in solitude. After having consulted God in prayer, they left their temporal possessions, separated from one another, and went into the desert. Ammonius selected for himself a mountain in the country of Nitria, where he built a little hut in which to pass the remainder of his life. His whole occupation consisted in praying, praising the Almighty, meditating on the divine mysteries, and mortifying his body. He endeavored to copy the life of the ancient hermits whom he had taken as his models. God so ordained that the fame of the holy life of Saint Ammonius soon spread through the whole country, to the salvation of many souls, as it drew many to him who desired to be instructed by him to live piously, while others wished to dwell constantly with him and serve God under his guidance. They also brought many sick to him, who hoped to obtain health of the Almighty through his intercession. One day, they brought a child which had become raving mad. When its parents begged him to restore it to health by his prayers, he said: “My prayer is not so mighty before the throne of God, as to work a miracle on your child; but you yourselves can cure it. Return the steer that you stole from the poor widow, and the health of your child will be restored.” The parents, greatly surprised that the holy hermit knew, by divine revelation, the theft of which they had been guilty, obeyed him, returned the steer to the widow; and the child was immediately cured of its misery. Many other graces which God had bestowed upon Saint Ammonius, and the miracles which were performed by his intercession, I must omit; the following, however, which happened to himself, I cannot pass over in silence. He came, one day, to a river which he had to cross. No boat being there, he determined to wade through the water. But as, in order to do this, he would have been obliged to raise his garments, he was for some time, at a loss what to do, because he was too modest to look at his bare feet; when God sent an Angel, who carried him over the river as a sign of heaven’s pleasure at his modesty.

When our Saint had reached his 62d year, the Almighty called him, by a peaceful death, to receive his eternal reward. At the same time, a hermit renowned for his holiness, who lived at a great distance from Saint Ammonius, saw a soul ascending to heaven, accompanied by a great many heavenly spirits; and was informed, by divine inspiration, that this was the soul of Saint Ammonius, who had, even in the married state, preserved his purity unspotted until his death.

Practical Considerations

• It is clear from the story of the deranged child, that, very often, sin is the cause of diseases and other temporal misfortunes. As virtue and piety are often accompanied by temporal well-being: so also is sin hurtful to the body as well as to the soul of man. This is shown plainly in Holy Writ, where God threatens sinners with most terrible punishment, as famine, war and pestilence. He also curses the dwellings, vineyards, cellars and barns, cattle and fruit of those who transgress His commandments. (Deuteronomy 28) The many examples related in Holy Writ testify that such threats are fulfilled. The following words of the Holy Ghost are most true: “Sin maketh nations miserable:” (Proverbs 14) miserable in soul; miserable in body; miserable in spiritual matters; miserable in temporal affairs; miserable while on earth; and finally, miserable for all eternity. Hence, you have double reason to hate sin and to avoid it as a source of so much evil. Consider also that the disease of the child ceased, as soon as the sin that caused it was removed. “Diseases are frequently punishments of sin,” says Saint Basil. If, therefore, sickness or other misfortune assail you, before all things, cleanse your conscience from the sin, on account of which God has visited you with sickness or crosses, and you may hope that the disease or the misfortune will also leave you. Should this, however, not be the case, then you will have at least the merit of your suffering.

• Saint Ammonius exhorts and persuades his bride to preserve her virginity. What say those to this who tempt their betrothed, on the pretence that they are already united before God! According to the words of the holy Archangel Raphael, which I have already cited elsewhere, the evil one has power over such people. How can they be happy? How can they expect God’s blessing on their marriage? Saint Ammonius would not even bare his feet on an occasion when it seemed unavoidable. How clear a sign of his angelic modesty and purity! What do those say of it, who, without any cause, appear immodestly dressed at home, at church, or on other occasions, to the great scandal of their fellow-beings? How much they will have to account for before the Judgment-seat of the Almighty, in consideration of the evil they have caused! The warm weather, or the prevailing costume, is the excuse they give for their immodesty. But Christ judges not after the custom, but after His holy law. If such delicate people cannot endure the heat of the weather, how will they bear the fearful heat of the fire of hell? How dare they say that they cannot stand the hot weather, when hundreds of women, just as tenderly brought up, suffer cheerfully, for the love of God, much greater inconvenience from the warm weather, under the rough garments of the religious life? Saint Ammonius is carried by an Angel over the river, and at last, his soul, after having left the body, is accompanied by many Angels into heaven. Behold how agreeable chaste persons are to the heavenly spirits. To whom are frivolous, immodest, unchaste persons agreeable? Surely not to the Angels, but to the unclean spirits, the devils. And whither do these carry them? The unclean spirits which Christ cast out of the two possessed, as is related in the eighth chapter of Saint Matthew, requested to be sent into a herd of swine; and as soon as they had received this permission, they drove the swine into the sea where they perished, probably to teach us that the devils like to dwell in those men, who, like the swine, wallow in the mire of lust until they are precipitated into hell. “Over those who live like swine, the devil exercises his power,” says Saint Ambrose. “There is no vice,” says Saint Bernard, “which makes the world more a prey to Satan than unchastity. It rejoices hell and draws almost all mankind into punishment.” “Unchastity,” says Hugo of Saint Victor, “spots the soul, soils the body, is unkind to the neighbor, is horrible to God, and despised by Angels; it gives pleasure to the devils only. The heat of it goes down to hell, but the smoke of it goes up to heaven, and cries for vengeance.” Is it then possible that man should not despise a vice so horrible, so dangerous and so abhorred by God and His Angels?

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Ammonius, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 May 2018. Web. 15 November 2018. <>