The story of the life of Antony comes from Athanasius, a theologian of the early church who was driven into exile by several emperors. While he was in exile in the Egyptian desert he met Antony. Raised as a Christian, Antony was instilled with the desire to life a life pleasing to God at a young age. When his parents passed away, leaving him to care for their household and his sister at the age of about twenty, he followed the advice of Matthew 19:21 which reads "If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have and give it to the poor; and come follow me, and you shall have treasure in heaven." Most of the story takes place after this point and Athanasius describes the trails and joys Antony experienced throughout the rest of his life. I would say that there was no doubt in Antony's mind that he, and everyone, should be a Christian. Athanasius even writes, "But when he was grown and arrived at boyhood, and was advancing in years, he could not endure to learn letters, not caring to associate with other boys; but all his desire was, as it is written of Jacob, to live a plain man at home" (Callings, 59). Antony's foremost desire was to be a plain man of God, just as Jacob had been. Knowing what he would say about public Christian faith is a little harder. While I don't think he would ever even consider denying his faith, his years spent in solitude suggest that he believes Christianity is more about the vertical one on one relationship with God rather than the horizontal relationships with his fellow believers.
At the risk of being a total nerd, I have to admit that Antony's description of his role models brought to my mind Rogue from the X-men. "One he admired for his endurance, another for his fasting and sleeping on the ground; the meekness of one and the long-suffering of another he watched with care... Thus filled, he returned to his own place of discipline, and henceforth would strive to unite the qualities of each, and was eager to show in himself the virtues of all" (Callings, 61). While Rogue may have considered her ability to absorb the mutant abilities of those she touched a curse, Antony felt exactly the opposite, and would in fact strive to obtain the virtuous qualities he observed in others. What a daunting task and an incredible example. I know that, personally, when I see a characteristic in someone else that I know I lack I'm more likely to complain about it, or even complain that God didn't give it to me, rather than work to change myself. But because Antony was willing to deny himself and study these people he became "beloved by all" (Callings, 61). By taking the time and self discipline to learn from his own role models, Antony was able to become a role model to others as well.
I can say that there have been several role models in my life that have helped influence my decision to enter into church work. One in particular is so devoted to God and turns to Him at every point in her life, studying the Word and devotions on a daily basis. Another is so eloquent in his faith; he can speak to nearly any audience at a moment's notice. Unlike Antony, however, while I covet (which in itself is my first down fall) these characteristics, I'm not usually willing to discipline myself until I obtain them. I hope that someday I can become a role model that has some of those "virtuous" characteristics. I don't have a reference for it, but I have heard it said that we witness strongly in our vulnerability. While I may never have all of the characteristics Antony did, I do hope that even in my failings I can still be a role model and a witness to God.