August 30 – Blessed Ghebre Michael, priest and martyr, Ethiopian Orthodox Monk, who became a friend and disciple of Saint Justin De Jacobis, the first Vicar Apostolic of Abyssinia. Ghebre Michael converted to Catholicism. He was ordained a priest and entered the Vincentian Congregation. He sealed with his martyrdom his quest for truth. He was beatified on 3 October 1926.
(Report found on an Italian language website of the St. Vincent dePaul Society.)
Abba Ghebre Michael was a distinguished figure of Ethiopia, endowed with acute, right, and straightforward intelligence, averse to bigotry. After personal reflection on faith that lasted for about half a century, as a neophyte he went to Rome in 1841, legate to the Supreme Pontiff. In Rome, he finally discovered the truth that was for him the subject of daily study. Since then, his adherence in mind, heart, and action to the true faith was so strong that, in 1844, he would profess it in prison at the time of the persecution against Christians that broke out in Ethiopia. From that moment on, his entire life was consecrated to prayer, Catholic instruction, and doctrinal controversies, crowned with great success.
Who then deserved the priesthood more than he? Captured together, him and me, and locked in two separate jails, only at the end of that same day could we exchange a few words. In prison, that intrepid athlete was beaten for a long time with sticks and punches by Abuna’s followers. After five months, he was brought to the court in front of a large crowd and, with wonderful strength, gave noble testimony to the faith. Prevailing in all the arguments that were put forward to make him fall, he was sentenced to death. However, the execution was postponed and, meanwhile, two robust soldiers repeatedly beat the martyr on his mouth, while, with beautiful expressions, he repeated aloud the dogmatic profession of Pope Saint Leo and the Council of Chalcedon on the two natures of Christ. He resisted in this way until his very torturers could go on no longer because of exhaustion.
Everyone now believed that the victim had been torn apart when, to the amazement of all, the old man got up and began to walk without any support. Every trace of the torments he had suffered disappeared from his face; indeed, his eye was shining with wonderful light. After that, he was brought back to prison. Two days later, with chains on his feet, he was forced to undertake a long journey, lasting two months, and then had to appear again before the Tribunal, in front of the whole army. Asked again, he renewed his profession of faith.
He was sentenced once more and led to the place of execution to be shot to death. But the crowd, moved and crying, asked for grace and got it. He was so lacerated by the beatings that his stomach ached, and this was followed by dysentery. The soldiers, full of admiration, no longer called him by his name but by that of Chedus Ghiergis; that is, Saint George. He died after 13 months of cruel torment at the age of 64, thus achieving the palm of martyrdom for which he fervently had yearned.
Blessed Ghebre Michael lived to the fullest the logic of love, the pillar of Vincent’s vocation.
Let us ask the Lord, through the example of Blessed Ghebre Michael, missionary priest of the Congregation of Saint Vincent de Paul, to support us with his Spirit in order to be faithful witnesses to the gospel truth before the world, so that all might recognize Him as the only true God.
Let us make our own the words of Peter, “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:13-14).
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are persecuted and killed throughout the world and, in particular, those tortured in the Near East for their courageous attachment to faith in Christ Jesus. We recall Saint Vincent’s words, “How well versed in this sort of suffering are our confreres … There they are, in the midst of war, plague, and famine, yet they remain firm and steadfast” (CCD XI, 357; Conference 167, Repetition of Prayer, 17 June 1657).