Athanasius of Alexandria

Athanasius I Feast Day: May 2
Canonized: Pre-Congregation

When we talk about St. Athanasius, we use two important words–“orthodoxy” and “heresy.” Orthodoxy means right belief. Heresy means false belief.

Athanasius was born in about 297 AD in Alexandria, Egypt. When he grew up, he became the bishop there. Then he spent the rest of his life defending one true belief of the Church–the divinity of Christ Jesus.

At that time, a priest named Arius said that Jesus was not equal to God the Father. Arius denied the divinity of Jesus. Many people accepted this false belief. But Athanasius and other bishops of the church spoke out against Arianism. They wrote the Nicene Creed to make it clear what the Church teaches about the Holy Trinity.

Arians lied about Athanasius, plotted against him, and finally forced him into exile in 336.

For many years, Athanasius lived among the hermits in the Egyptian desert. But often, at a moment’s notice, he had to move from one hermitage to another to escape the Arians. Again and again, Athanasius proclaimed that Jesus was truly God. Again and again, Athanasius fled to escape the enemies of orthodoxy.

In 365, Athanasius went home to Alexandria. He died there in 373, at the age of 76. A few years later, the Church declared that Arianism was a heresy. So the belief that Jesus is divine was passed down to us because of Athanasius, the champion of right belief.

He is sometimes referred to as St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Athanasius the Great, Athanasius the Apostolic, or Athanasius the Confessor. He is one of the great Doctors of the Church.