Left the altar for the desert
St. Abraham then spent years destroying pagan altars
By Tony Staley
St. Abraham Kidunaia
When: Sixth century
Feast: March 16
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," goes the old
saying. It also could be the motto of St. Abraham Kidunaia, a 6th
century hermit of the eastern church.
Abraham was born into a wealthy family in Edessa, Mesopotamia
(now Iraq). Although he wanted to live in celibacy as a hermit, his
parents insisted that he marry. He didn't want to disappoint them,
so he agreed to marry the woman they chose.
The custom called for seven days of festivities to end with the
wedding. On the final day, Abraham ran off to the desert. His
family and friends eventually found him deep in prayer, but were
unable to convince him to return.
He moved into a cabin and had it sealed, except for a small
window where food could be passed to him. He received his parents
large estate after their deaths, but had a friend give it all to
the poor, except a cloak, a goatskin garment, a bowl for food and
drink and a simple mat to sleep on.
Living close by were a rowdy group of pagans who had refused all
entreaties to convert to Christianity. Despite his own wishes,
Abraham obeyed the wishes of the bishop of Edessa. He was ordained
and left his hermitage to work in the town of Beth-Kiduna, which he
found to be a haven of idolatry.
He convinced the bishop to build a church. When it was done,
Abraham came into town praying, then destroyed every pagan altar
and idol he found. The outraged townspeople responded by beating
him and driving him away.
The next morning, they would find him back in town praying and
urging them to give up their superstitions and pagan practices.
Again and again, for the next three years, they would drive him out
-- sometimes beating him and throwing stones at him -- only to have
him return that night while they slept.
Finally, his patience and zeal paid off, and the people began
converting to Christianity. He worked among them for the next year,
building up the community until he feared that he would begin
wanting material possessions and returned to his hermitage.
He left it only once more. Many years earlier, a young niece had
come to live at his hermitage after the death of her parents. He
built her a room and the two spent their time in prayer. A few
years later, a traveling monk raped the then teenaged girl and she
ran away, ashamed.
When Abraham, who did not know of the rape, finally heard after
many years that his niece was working as a prostitute, he went to
find her. She at first refused to tell him what happened, but after
he spent the night consoling and counseling her, she was reconciled
and returned to live a life of prayer with him.
(Sources: All Saints, Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and Lives of the Saints)