Saint Abraham of Kiduna, Hermit of Edessa

Abraham was born in the 4th century in Mesopotamia not far from Edessa. His parents were wealthy nobles and had great hopes for his future. They planned a marriage for him with a young lady of a family that was also noble and well-to-do. Although Abraham did not want to marry, he did not argue with his parents. A seven-day festivity preceded the marriage. On the last day of the festivities, he slipped away secretly and concealed himself in a cave in the desert, two miles from Edessa.
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A great search was made, and at the end of 17 days, he was found in that cave absorbed in prayer. All appeals for him to reconsider his decision failed, and finally he was left in his solitude. Abraham built a wall closing off his cell, leaving only a small window through which food could be passed. St. Ephraem, his companion and biographer, tells us that he passed ten years in that cell praising God.

When his parents died, he inherited their fortune. He arranged for a friend to manage it, and distributed half of it to the poor. He lived only with a goatskin tunic, a cloak, a bowl to serve as both dish and cup, and a mat of rushes for a bed. Despite his desire for solitude, many people came to him to ask his advice.

One day the Bishop of Edessa asked to speak with him. He told St. Abraham that he wanted the hermit to leave his cell and go to the neighboring city of Beth-Kiduna, where he had sent many priests, but all had either been driven away or murdered without converting the city from its deeply entrenched idolatry. Abraham saw the will of God in that invitation, and accepted it.

With the money he had entrusted to his friend, he built a Catholic church in the city. The new basilica was protected from the outrage of the idolaters of the city by the laws of Constantine. When it was completed, St. Abraham entered the city at night, toppling and smashing all the altars and idols he could find. The infuriated inhabitants rushed upon him, beat him and drove him from the city. He prayed God to restore his health, and the next morning the people found him, in good health, praying fervently in the church. He continued to harangue the people to leave their superstitions, and they turned on him again. They dragged him out of the city, stoned him and left him for dead. Again, God restored him, and he returned to the church. Ill treated, constantly insulted and sometimes attacked with sticks and stones, he heroically continued to preach and teach for three years without any result.

At the end of those three years, the people of Kiduna, facing a complicated problem for which they had no resolution, decided to come and ask his advice, persuaded by his life and charity that he was a holy man. Listening to him talk, all the members of the delegation converted, followed by many in the city. Eventually he baptized 1,000 persons and instructed them in the principles of the Catholic Faith for one year. After that, thinking that he was becoming too absorbed in the things of this world, he decided to leave the people to the care of others. In the silence of the night he left Kiduna and returned to his cell.
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A time passed and he received news that his brother had died and left his only daughter to be raised by him. He brought her to his desert cave, built another cell for her and taught her the things she should know. The girl became a beautiful young lady; one day she was seduced by a renegade monk who had turned from his vows, and followed him to the city. There she spent all the money she had inherited form her father and became a prostitute.

Her uncle did not know what had happened to her. When Abraham finally discovered the truth, he left his solitude. Disguised as a soldier, he went to the city to seek her. Arriving at the inn where she was living, he asked her to sup with him. During the meal, he disclosed his identity. She repented and followed him back to the desert, where she remained until her death, five years after that of her uncle.

St. Abraham lived to the age of 70. As news of his last illness spread, throngs of people from the countryside flocked to his cave to receive his blessing. After his death each one tried to procure some fragment of his clothing, as described by St. Ephraem, who was present.
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Hermit and apostle who faced the pagan priests of Edessa in Mesopotamia. Born in that city, Abraham refused to enter into a marriage arranged by his prosperous parents and went out into the nearby desert to live in a sealed cabin. Food was provided for him through a single opening by disciples, and his influence attracted other hermits to the region. When Abraham’s parents died, he gave away his large inheritance. Soon after, he was asked by the bishop of Edessa to start a hermitage at Beth-Kiduna, near the city. The pagans in the region persecuted him after he destroyed their idols, but Abraham won them over and claimed the area for the Church. He then returned to his hermitage, where he is reported to have reached the age of seventy before dying.
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