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Saint of the Day - Saint Porphyry (February 26)

Saint Porphry lived in the fourth and fifth centuries and did his most important work in Gaza. As we all know, there is much fighting going on in Gaza these days. Saint Porphry, pray for all involved! Saint Porphry was a bishop who proselytized the pagans of the Gaza region. He is not listed on the martyrology of the Roman Catholic Church.

Image obtained from and used as being in the public domain

Saint Porphry was born around 347 in Thessalonika, Macedonia, which is in modern-day Greece. He was born of a wealthy Greek family. Despite this, he left to become a hermit in the desert of Egypt around the age of 25. He subsequently lived on the banks of the Jordan River and, eventually, in the Jerusalem area.

While in Jerusalem, Saint Porphry fell ill. He was inspired to sell all of his inheritance, giving the money to the poor, with the help of his friend, Mark, who would become his deacon and biographer. Almost immediately, Saint Porphry returned to health. He spent a good bit of his time there traveling to the various important sites in the life and passion o Jesus and engaging in great penances there. While in Jerusalem, he even worked, for a time, as a humble cobbler (shoemaker) and was ordained a priest at Jerusalem in 393, at the age of 46.

Saint Porphry did neither sought, nor did he desire, to be made Bishop of Gaza. Against his will, the position was thrust upon him. At the time, Gaza was very pagan, and the pagans created a threat to Saint Porphry. He appealed to civic leaders of the time, including the emperor, Constantine (the first openly Christian Emperor of tRome - after which it was called the Holy Roman Empire), for protection, which was, by all appearances, granted. From Constantrine, he also sought destruction of the pagan temples, which was also done. He built a church on the site of the largest and most important pagan temple that was dedicated too the chief god, that he might celebrate Mass where the enemy was the strongest. The entrance to the Church was adorned with marble from the pagan temple so that those who entered would trample on the pagan religion and their chief god and there sin if idolatry (source: One must remember that Constantine's mother, Saint Helena (feast day August 18), found the True Cross - the cross on which Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God, was crucified.

While pagan opposition to his work lasted in Gaza throughout his lifetime, Porphry labored tirelessly for his diocese. Through his many miracles, he obtained many conversions to the Christian faith (remember that this was before the schisms of the sixteenth and later centuries, so there was no "Catholic" church, only Christianity and The Church).

In 415, Porphry participated in the Council of Diospolis, which was convened by Patriarch John II of Jerusalem. This council dealt with Pelagius, who had fled to the region of Palestine after his big fight with Saint Augustine of Hippo ((feast day August 28) over issues including original sin and divine grace. At this council, Pelagius would reject these heresies and come back into communion with Rome.

Saint Porphry died at Gaza on February 26, 420. He was declared a saint pre-Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. He is the patron saint of Gaza.


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