In 1829 (1545 Coptic) in the village of Calad in Egypt, Paul Gabriel was born. His Christian parents sent him to a nearby church school however, when he was only eight, his mother died. Young Paul Gabriel was a lonely child but he loved prayers and psalms and through them discovered that God could fill his heart.
At 15 years old, he possessed great knowledge of Holy Books and Church Hymns. The village priest recommended him to the Bishop of Dyrout, Anba Youssab who ordained him a Deacon for the church of Gilda.
However, young Paul Gabriel longed for monastic life so he joined St Virgin Mary’s Monastery in Assuit, Egypt. He worked hard and was loved by his fellow monks. In 1848, at only 19 years old, he was ordained as a Monk with the name Reverend Paul Meharraki. In 1859, Bishop Anba Yakoubos asked Reverend Paul to join the Bishop’s house where he worked day and night to convert it into a shelter for the poor. He returned to the monastery in 1863 where he was ordained a Priest and chosen by the Monks to become the Abbot of the monastery.
Father Paul opened the doors of the monastery to create a refuge for thousands of the poor. During his time as Abbot, he improved the monastery both spiritually and financially by developing its agricultural land.
In 1881, Father Paul was ordained a Bishop for the province of Fayoum and Gieza and given the name Anba Abraam by Pope Kyrillos V. His Diocese became a resting place for poor and rich and rich alike. Rulers of the world found rest there. The Bishop’s house provided money, shelter, food and clothing to the poor.
He was known for never accepting food that was better than that offered to the poor. Anba Abraam became renowned for performing miracles through prayers and fasting. As his fame spread around Egypt and to Europe, many people of different religions came to seek the blessing of his prayers and were healed. In 1893, Anba Abraam was seriously ill with bad sores in one leg.
The Doctors recommended amputation but he smiled and said, “It is not God’s will for this leg which serves him to be cut. I put my trust in Him!” After two months, he recovered completely and attended church to offer a special prayer of thanksgiving. The church was full beyond capacity with parishioners carrying branches of palm and olive trees, singing with great joy for the health of their father.
In his final days on earth, many people travelled to see Anba Abraam and to receive his blessings. After sunset on 9 June 1914, Anba Abraam, the Friend of the Poor, departed to heaven. More than 10,000 Christian and Muslims walked in his funeral precession to lay his body in a tomb in the church of the monastery of the Virgin Mary in El-Azab, Fayoum.
Today, his tomb is a pilgrimage for many seeking his help for infirmities and special needs. In 1964, the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church declared unanimously the Sainthood of Anba Abraam based on first hand stories of his piety, wonders, and miracles.