November 2007 - St. Menas of Egypt

St. Menas of EgyptFeast Day: November 11

St. Menas was born in Egypt into a Christian family near the end of the third century.  Early representations of the saint depict him with two camels and it is assumed he was a camel-driver in his youth.  It is known that he joined the Roman Legion in North Africa and served as a soldier of the Imperial Guard.  At one time a fierce persecution of Christians was underway and Menas refused to participate.  He deserted the army and retired to the solitude of the Libyan Desert to devote his life to prayer and fasting.   As the persecution increased, St. Menas decided to join his fellow Christians as they endured persecution.  He left the desert and appeared in the city during a pagan festival.  In the midst of the celebrations St. Menas declared his allegiance to Christ and was immediately arrested and imprisoned.  He died in prison and his body was removed by his friends and buried in the desert.  His martyrdom is recorded in the year 303 A.D.

The burial site of St. Menas soon became a shrine of pilgrimage and when the persecutions ended a church was built there.  Karm Abu Mina is west of Alexandria near Lake Mareotis, pilgrims from as far away as Ireland regularly visited the site bringing home small terracotta bottles with holy oil from St. Mfenas's shrine.  One of these bottles is among the relics here at St. George Church.  A large and thriving Coptic Orthodox Monastery now exists at the ancient site of the shrine of St. Menas.

The Orthodox Calendar gives an account of the St. Menas's intervention in the Second World War: "In June 1942, during the North-Africa campaign that was decisive for the outcome of the Second World War, the German forces under the command of General Erwin Rommel were on their way to Cairo, and happened to make a halt near a place which the Arabs call El-Alamein after Saint Menas. An ancient church there was dedicated to the Saint; and there people say he is buried. Here the weaker Allied forces confronted the numerically and militarily superior German army, and the result of the coming battle seemed certain. During the first night of engagement, Saint Menas appeared in the midst of the German camp at the head of a caravan of camels, exactly as he was shown on the walls of the ruined church in one of the frescoes depicting his miracles. This astounding and terrifying apparition so undermined German morale that it contributed to the brilliant victory of the Allies. The Church of Saint Menas was restored in thanksgiving and a monastery was established there."

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