Saint Athanasius

Feast day May 2

Saints Stories for All Ages

Athanasius was born of Christian parents in Alexandria, Egypt, about 295. As a young man, he spent four years in prayer and solitude in the desert. There he met Anthony the hermit, who influenced him. After he left the desert, Athanasius became a priest and was appointed secretary to Alexander, bishop of Alexandria.

Meanwhile, Arius had begun preaching that Jesus was not truly God. At a church council at Nicaea in 325, Arius and his ideas were condemned, and the bishops composed the Nicene Creed.

Athanasius, who had attended the Council of Nicaea, was deeply impressed by the bishops. For the rest of his life, he defended all the doctrines of the Church. When he became bishop of Alexandria in 328, it was the beginning of almost 50 years of persecution at the hands of Arian heretics, who had become very popular. During these long years, Athanasius was unjustly accused of crimes, was deliberately misunderstood and humiliated, and was exiled several times. The last few years of his life were rather peaceful, and he died in his native city in 373.


  • Suggest that the students report on a modern defender of the Church who has been persecuted for the faith: Pope Pius IX, Blessed Miguel Augustín Pro, Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty, Aloysius Cardinal Stepinac, or Archbishop Oscar Romero.

  • Discuss people the students know who witness to Jesus.

Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio

Image credit: Saint Athanasius was persecuted by Otto Bitschnau, 1883. Public Domain via Wikimedia.