The Desert Fathers and Mothers proclaimed a different set of values, where change occurs through silence…; where inaction may be the most powerful source of action; and where productivity may be measured by obscurity, even invisibility.…Theirs was a change that was out of sight, unrecorded in history books. Yet, it was a change that proved cataclysmic, recorded silently in human hearts. It was a protest against the complacency of the Christian world.…The desert was what ultimately kept alive the fiery spirit of the martyrs. The words, then, of these desert elders are more than mere sayings; they are a profound statement.
Antony’s step into the uninhabitable and inhospitable desert was little noticed outside, or indeed even inside, his village at the time. Nevertheless, when he died at the age of 156, his friend and biographer Athanasius of Alexandria informs us that the “desert had become a city,” meaning that thousands had regularly flocked to Antony to be taught by him and had made the desert their home. Antony of Egypt was to become known as the father and founder of desert monasticism.