From caves to stoning and back

St. Abraham kept trying to get away from it all, and eventually did

The story of St. Abraham Kidunia is one of perseverance, both in following his vocation and his work as a missionary.

Abraham was born late in the 3rd century at Chidana, near Edessa (Turkey). His wealthy parents gave him an excellent education and arranged his marriage to another member of the nobility despite his protests.

Finally, after many arguments, he agreed. At the end of a seven-day celebration before the wedding, though, Abraham fled at night into the desert and an abandoned cave two miles away.

After 17 days, his family and friends found him, deep in prayer. He refused to return and they eventually left him alone. Abraham built a wall to close himself off, leaving a window through which friends gave him food and water.

Abraham had only a cloak, tunic, a bowl from which he ate and drank, and a mat. He spent his time in prayer and penance and eventually attracted spiritual seekers.

Twelve years after his move to the desert, Abraham’s parents died, leaving him their fortune. He asked a trusted friend to give the money to the poor.

Nearby was Kiduna, a pagan village. The bishop had sent a succession of priests and deacons there, all of whom had been driven away. Finally, the bishop asked his priests about Abraham. They assured him that he was a good and holy man, so the bishop went to Abraham. He ordained Abraham, despite his protests, and sent him to Kiduna as a missionary.

Abraham wept when he saw the obstacles awaiting him. He contacted the friend who was distributing his estate and asked for whatever money was left so he could build and decorate a church.

Although the church’s beauty impressed the people, they rejected Abraham’s pleas to convert. He went to their temple and destroyed its idols. Enraged , the people dragged him out of town and stoned him. He recovered during the night and returned, to people’s amazement.  They still refused his appeals and, for three years, beat and harassed him.

Abraham finally prevailed. He arranged to have priests take over and returned to his cell. We know of him through a biography by his friend, St. Ephraem.


Sources: “Butler’s Lives of the Saints”;;; “Life of Saint Abraham”;;; and


Staley is a retired editor of The Compass

St. Abraham Kidunia

When: c. 296 – c. 366

Where: Edessa

What: Hermit and missionary

Feast: March 17