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Saint Ephrem

Saint Ephrem
  • Century: 4th Century
  • Patronage: spiritual directors, spiritual leaders
  • Feast Day: June 9th

St. Ephrem was born around the year 306 in the city of Nisibis, modern Turkish town of Nusaybin, in Turkey along the border with Syria.  Ephrem was baptized around the age of 18, and he may have been ordained a deacon of the Church at the same time.  Since one of the chief activities of a deacon is the preaching of the Gospel, Ephrem began to write deeply theological hymns and biblical commentaries. In his lifetime, he may have written as many as three million lines, and 400 of his hymns still survive and are used today. His hymnography earned him the title “Harp of the Spirit.”

Jacob, the second Bishop of Nisibis was appointed in 308, and Ephrem grew up under his leadership, and was a friend.  We know that “Jacob of Nisibis” is recorded as a signatory at the First Council of Nicea in 325.  Jacob appointed Ephrem as a teacher, and began to compose hymns and write biblical commentaries as part of his educational office. 

Very soon after his death in 373 while tending to plague victims, he was cannonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict the XV in 1920.  He contributed much to building up the foundation of the Church that we have today.  In fact, the newly excavated Church of Saint Jacob in Nisibis, where Ephrem taught and ministered can be seen today – a rare and mystical find. 

Practical Take Away

You and I as Catholics are called to pray for all of our brothers and Sisters, and especially our Spiritual Leaders.  St. Ephrem is the patron saint for Spiritual Directors and Spiritual Leaders.  Many of them call upon St. Ephrem today for his intercession in times of trouble and discernment.  We can all join in, praying for our spiritual leaders and directors, just as St. Ephrem has taught us.  In fact, all of our spiritual leaders in Newman Centers across the country can benefit by seeking out the intercession of St. Ephrem.  Here is a prayer that is widely used today. 

Prayer of St. Ephrem

O LORD, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.

Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love.

O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren.  For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever