Beliefnet

St. Porphyry of Gaza (353-421)

We go far back in history today to learn a bit about a saint whose name is not familiar to most of us in the West but who is celebrated by the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.

Born near Greece in the mid-fourth century, Porphry is most known for his generosity to the poor and for his ascetic lifestyle. Deserts and caves were his home for a time. At age 40, living in Jerusalem, Porphyry was ordained a priest.

If the accounts we have are correct, he was elected bishop of Gaza—without his knowledge and against his will. He was, in effect, kidnapped (with the help of a neighboring bishop, by the way) and forcibly consecrated bishop by the members of the small Christian community there. No sooner had Porphyry been consecrated bishop then he was accused by the local pagans of causing a drought. When rains came shortly afterward, the pagans gave credit to Porphyry and the Christian population and tensions subsided for a time.

For the next 13 years, Porphyry worked tirelessly for his people, instructed them and made many converts, though pagan opposition continued throughout his life. He died in the year 421.