Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saints Andronicus and Athanasia, Hermits

Saints Andronicus and AthanasiaArticle

Saint Andronicus and Saint Athanasia lived at the time of Theodosius the Elder, in the city of Antioch, rich in temporal possessions, and pious in all their actions. From the time of their marriage, they divided their yearly income in such a manner, that they gave one part of it to the poor, another to the maintenance of the religious in the convents, the third they used for their own household, which they had arranged suitably to their station. God blessed them with two children, a son and a daughter, after which they lived in continence in order the better to serve the Lord. Twelve years had they lived thus piously, when it pleased the Almighty to prove their fidelity by many deep sorrows. On one day they lost both their children, their son in his twelfth, their daughter in her tenth year. Andronicus manifested a brave heart under this heavy misfortune. Submitting to Providence, he said with Job: “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away. Praised be the name of Lord!” Athanasia, however, would not be comforted, but remained, after the burial of her children, sitting beside the grave, in the church of the holy martyr Julian, and wept without ceasing until midnight. At that hour, the saint appeared to her, saying: “Why dost you disturb those that sleep here, with thy tears? Weep rather over thy sins, than over the loss of thy children; for they are with God in heaven and live in never-ending bliss.” This heavenly messenger took all grief from Athanasia and filled her heart with comfort. She went home, related to Andronicus what had happened, and added that she had determined to pass the remainder of her life in a convent, and weep over her sins. Andronicus was greatly pleased with this pious resolution; but proposed that they should reflect on the subject for eight days: if, after this time she had not changed her mind he would throw no obstacle in the way. Both prayed most earnestly to learn the will of God. When the appointed time came, Athanasia informed her husband that her resolution was unchanged, and he told her that he would follow her example. Congratulating each other, they waited for an opportunity to carry their wishes into effect. Andronicus went to the father of Athanasia and informed him that he intended to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with her, requesting him to administer his property until their return. He added that if God prevented their coming back, all their possessions should be sold for the erection of a convent or an hospital. After this had been arranged, the pious couple dismissed their servants and quietly set out on their pilgrimage, most piously employing their time in praying and begging the Almighty to lead them to a place where they could serve Him most perfectly. When they reached Alexandria, Athanasia, out of devotion, desired to remain a few days, and Andronicus repaired to the holy abbot Daniel, to be advised by him where they should pass the rest of their lives and fulfill their desire to serve God. The holy man wished Athanasia to come to him, and when Andronicus brought her, he sent her into the desert of the Tabenna, where she was received among the reclus- es and numbered among the handmaidens of the most High. Andronicus remained in the monastery of Daniel, where he led so holy a life, that he was an example to all the brethren.

After twelve years had thus passed, Andronicus felt an inner desire to visit the holy places at Jerusalem, for which the Abbot willingly gave his permission. At the same time, Athanasia was moved with the same desire, and received the consent of her Abbess; but she was cautioned to wear the habit of the monks, in order to be more safe. Husband and w’ife commenced their journey, but neither of them knew the movements of the other. When Athanasia had been for some time on the road, she saw in the distance, a monk sitting under a tree; she soon recognized Andronicus, but gave not the slightest sign that she knew him. Austere fasting had so thoroughly changed her appearance, that Andronicus did not know her. He asked her whither she was going, and when Athanasia answered that she was going to Jerusalem to visit the holy places, he said that he had the same intention, and offered himself as a travelling companion. Athanasia accepted the offer with pleasure, and piously continued her way with him to Jerusalem and back again. Andronicus was quite convinced that his pious and virtuous companion was one of the Egyptian hermits, and earnestly desired that their days might be spent together. Athanasia was not unwilling, but desired that he should first ask the advice of the holy Abbot Daniel. After their return, Athanasia made her dwelling in a retired cell, and when Andronicus had obtained the Abbot’s permission, she received him, and for twelve years they led a most holy life. Daniel, who visited them frequently, encouraged them to continue in their fervor.

When they had thus lived peacefully and piously for twelve years, Saint Daniel, coming one day to visit them, was met by Andronicus, who told him with tearful eyes, that his beloved brother was mortally sick, and to all appearance would soon die. Daniel, on entering the cell, found that indeed Andronicus’ fears were well founded, and administering the holy sacraments to the sick, he remained with her until the Lord had received her soul. Before her end, she requested Saint Daniel to read, after her death, a letter which he would find under her pillow and to show it also to Andronicus. The holy man did as he was desired, and discovered that the late pious hermit was no other than Athanasia, the spouse of Andronicus. The astonishment of Andronicus, as well as of the other hermits, was beyond description. The inhabitants of Alexandria, as well as the hermits who lived in the neighborhood, came to see the Christian heroine, who had led so wonderful a life. Andronicus spent the rest of his days and closed his eyes in the same room where his holy spouse had lived unknown with him for so many years.

The reader will hardly ask for miracles after reading the above; for truly, they wrought great wonders, who, leaving their large fortune, chose a poor and austere life and dwelt so many years in the strict observance of chastity. The heroic self-control of Saint Athanasia, in not making herself known to him, whom during so many years she had loved so deeply, is a miracle of Christian fortitude. Learn from it how strong man is when the grace of God is within him. Learn how wonderfully God brings His elect to perfection and salvation. Learn how we must conquer ourselves and persevere in the path of virtue. Parents, who lose their children early, as also all those who, on account of temporal adversity, are immoderately sad, should ponder the words of Saint Julian to the sorrowing Athanasia: “Weep rather over thy sins, than over thy dead children. They are in heaven, enjoying eternal bliss; how then canst you weep so bitterly over them?” Let us weep only in sorrow for our sins: then our tears will be useful. Hence Saint Chrysostom says: “Let us weep only over our sins; but bear all else with a fearless heart; whether it be poverty, sickness, early death, or other sorrows.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saints Andronicus and Athanasia, Hermits”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 May 2018. Web. 14 November 2018. <>