Saint Abraham Kidunaia
The birthplace of St. Abraham was near Edessa in Mesopotamia, where his parents occupied an important position, being possessed of great riches. They chose for him a bride, and although he felt called to a celibate life he did not dare to oppose their wishes. In accordance with the custom of the time and country, a seven-days' festivity preceded the actual marriage, and on the last day Abraham ran away to conceal himself in the desert. A search was made for the fugitive, who at length was discovered absorbed in prayer. All appeals and entreaties having failed to shake his resolution, his friends finally withdrew, and he walled up the door of his cell, leaving only a little window through which food could be passed. When his parents died, he inherited their riches, but he commissioned a friend to distribute all his goods to the poor. His only remaining possessions were a cloak, a goatskin garment, a bowl for food and drink, and a rush mat on which he slept. "He was never seen to smile", says his biographer, "and he regarded each day as his last. And yet he preserved a fresh complexion and as healthy and vigorous a body (although he was naturally delicate) as though he were not leading a penitential life. ...And, what is even more surprising, never once, in fifty years, did he change his coat of goatskin, which was actually worn by others after his death."
Not far from Abraham's cell there was a colony of idolaters who had hitherto resisted with violence all attempts to evangelize them, and who were a source of constant grief to the bishop of Edessa. The bishop accordingly appealed to him to leave his hermitage and preach to the people. Reluctantly St. Abraham allowed himself to be ordained a priest and did as he was bidden. Coming to the town which was called Beth-Kiduna he found the citizens determined not to listen, and on all sides were signs of idolatry and appalling abominations. He asked the bishop to build a Christian church in the midst of the pagan settlement, and when it was completed, the saint felt that his time had come. After praying earnestly, he went forth and cast down the altars and destroyed every idol he could see. The infuriated villagers rushed upon him, beat him and drove him from the village. During the night he returned, and was found in the morning praying in the church. Going out into the streets he began to harangue the people and to urge them to give up their superstitions, but they again turned on him, and seizing him dragged him away, stoned him and left him for dead. Upon recovering consciousness he again returned, and though constantly insulted, ill-treated and sometimes attacked with sticks and stones, he continued for three years to preach, without any apparent result. Suddenly the tide turned: the saint's meekness and patience convinced the people that he was indeed a holy man, and they began to listen. "Seeing them at last so well disposed, he baptized them all in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, to the number of a thousand persons, and thenceforth he read the Holy Scriptures assiduously to them every day while instructing them in the principles of faith, of Christian justice and of charity." Thus for a year he continued to build up his converts, and then, fearing that he himself was becoming too much absorbed in the things of this world, he determined to leave his flock to the care of others and stole away at night to hide himself once more in the desert. St. Abraham lived to the age of seventy. At the news of his last illness, the whole countryside flocked to receive his benediction, and after his death each one sought to procure some fragment of his clothing.
In accord with the Roman Martyrology, Alban Butler and one or two modern writers, notably Mgr. Lamy, St. Ephraem has been spoken of as the author of the narrative just summarized: this attribution seems now to be definitely rejected and the saint assigned to the sixth century. See the Acta Sanctorum, March, vol. ii; the Analecta Bollandiana, vol. x (1891), pp. 5-49, where a Syriac text is printed, and vol.xxvi (1907), pp. 468-469; Delehaye's Synax. Const., under October 29; DHG., vol. l (1938), pp. 222-245; and especially E. de Stoop in Musée belge, vol. xv, pp. 297-312.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV
Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912, Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York