Saint Ephrem the Syrian was born sometime around the year 306 in Nibisis, a Syrian town located in modern-day Turkey. The Church was suffering under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It was long believed that Ephrem's father was a pagan priest, but evidence from his own writings suggests that both of his parents may have been Christians, so his father may have converted later in life.
- Feast Day: June 9
- Type of Feast: Optional Memorial
- Dates: c. 306 (Nisibis, in modern-day Turkey)-June 9, 373 (Edessa)
- Patron of: spiritual directors; spiritual leaders
- Canonization: by acclamation, very soon after his death; proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XV on October 5, 1920
- Prayers: The Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Prayer of Praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary (written by Saint Ephrem)
The Life of Saint Ephrem:
Ephrem was baptized around the age of 18, and he may have been ordained a deacon 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. His hymnography earned him the title "Harp of the Spirit."
Fleeing westward from the Persians, who were ravaging Turkey, Ephrem settled in Edessa, in southern Turkey, in 363. There, he continued to write hymns, especially defending the teaching of the Council of Nicea against the Arian heretics, who were influential in Edessa. He died tending plague victims in 373.