The Late Father Antonious Farag
Father Antonious Farag was born “Awad Farag Awad” on 17 July 1916 in Cairo. He was the eldest of five brothers and four sisters. He completed his primary and secondary education and worked as a mathematics teacher after graduating from the college of Sciences. He taught in many schools in numerous cities and towns in Egypt, and lastly he worked in one of Cairo’s known educational establishments, in the Girls’ Coptic College located in the area of Abbassiyah.
His love of Christ and His Church was clear from when he was a young man. As a layman, he taught in Sunday School, and was enthusiastically involved in the activities and service of the youth of St Antonious Church in Shoubra, Cairo.
Father Antonious was called several times to the priesthood, and finally in 1972 he accepted to be ordained a priest to serve the congregation of his church. Thanks to his dedication, self-sacrifice and above all his spirituality, the whole neighbourhood witnessed a remarkable spiritual revival in the following years, and church members grew rapidly in number.
In the summer of 1974, Father Antonious arrived to London. He seriously aspired that the Copts owned a church where they can pray any time and hold Mass every day instead of hiring church halls for Sunday worship and church celebrations only, with his prayers and support, a permanent church was established a year later. In 1977, he returned to Egypt and served in St George’s church in Daher area besides his service in St Mary’s church in Ayyad Beck area (both in Shoubra, Cairo). Two years later, he returned to London where he served for 18 years until he departed this world on 18 February 1997
Throughout his ministry, Father Antonious gave special care and attention to the elderly and the sick. He would visit them regularly, often travelling long distances to see them and to give them Holy Communion. Since he had no driving license, he would travel by bus to those whom he served. He was also very generous with his time. Students used to stop on their way to school exams to ask for his prayers and blessings, and he in turn would remember to pray for them during the liturgy. He regularly visited the worshippers and asked after everyone.
Father Antonious was blessed with a heavenly talent in befriending those who were away from the church and eventually convincing them to repent and attend church regularly. He used to look for them on the street corners and stop and chat to them in a fatherly and loving manner, exerting limitless efforts to bring them back to the fold. Once, he went to visit one of his sheep whom he knew at the time worked at a pub. He waited outside the pub and asked one of those entering to fetch him. When this man came out, Father Antonious greeted him warmly and asked him if he could serve him in making the Qorban for the Holy Mass. That man marks this as a turning point in his life and soon after left his job in the pub.
During the Liturgy, out of his deep devotion and knowledge of the immense riches offered freely to all on the Holy Altar, he would often venture to talk with those of the congregation who were not approaching to receive Holy Communion. Those whom he knew had not had Communion for a long time or who were new to the ways of the church, he would encourage to take of the ‘pearl of great price’ offered to them now. He would hold them lovingly and appeal to them of the greatness of the gift being offered. A lot would listen and would later count this as a turning point in their life with their Lord.
Father Antonious spent his life serving the Lord in all loyalty and steadfastness, even when his health was ailing. Besides suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, in his later years he also became partially paralysed in his left side. He often had sleepless nights from the excruciating pain in his shoulder. However, his ailing health never hindered him from his ministry. Despite the pain of his illness which he endured happily, he continued to serve the Lord, praying the Divine Liturgy every day and Vespers regularly, preferring to submit himself to the true Healer on the church altar.
His life was a reflection of his numerous gifts: He was a man of prayer, a fisherman of people and a compassionate yet firm man. He loved visiting the sick and offering them the sacraments of healing, confession, repentance and communion. He is known for his remarkable love for the church saints, especially the Mother of God, and St Antony after whom he was named when he was ordained. Father Antonious was also known for his frankness and transparency. He was an incorrupt and contented man in every way, never caring for fame or earthly praise or glory, or for personal belongings. Above all, his forgiveness was extraordinary. Indeed he is a man well-loved and kindly remembered by all who knew him.