UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

Sts Abhor and Mehraela and the Martyrs of North Africa

North Africa

There are some saints about whom we know almost nothing. Abhor and Mehraela were brother and sister, among the thousands of martyrs in the ancient African Church. Their memory is still venerated in the Coptic Church.  If there once was an account of their lives, it appears now to have been lost.

We should remember that Africa – known as Egypt or Ethiopia in the Scriptures – features prominently in salvation history. So also, Christianity owes much to its African origins. Many of the great leaders of the early Church came out of Africa: for example, Athanasius, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo.  Three early Popes – Victor I, Miltiades, and Gelasius – also came from Africa.

Mark the Evangelist is believed to have started the Church of Alexandria in the year 43.  By the second century we know that their scriptures and liturgical prayers had been translated into three local languages.  The growing Church was then scattered in the Roman persecutions in the middle of the third century. Many Christians fled to the desert. Some remained as hermits and developed the foundations of Christian monasticism.

The fourth century began with another Roman persecution, under Diocletian, and more martyrs.  We do not know exactly when Abhor and Mehraela were martyred, but it was probably during this time. Their feast serves to remind us of the sacrifices made for the faith by so many, in various parts of the world, through all the centuries. We pray that we may, in our own ways, continue to bear witness to the love of God shown through Jesus Christ.