Saint of the Day – 14 January – St Macrina the Elder (Died c 340) Widow, Mother of the elder St Basil and, therefore, the Grandmother of St Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Peter of Sebaste and St Macrina the Younger. Macrina was a native of Cappadocia, in what is now eastern Turkey. Patronages – against poverty, of the poor, of widows. Also known as – Macrina of Caesarea.
The Roman Martyrology says today: “St Macrina, disciple of St Gregory Thaumaturgus and the grandmother of St Basil, whom she brought up in the Faith.”
Our knowledge of the life of the elder Macrina is derived mainly from the testimony of the great Cappadocian Fathers of the Church, her grandchildren – Basil, Gregory of Nyssa (Vita Macrinae Junioris) and the panegyric of St Gregory of Nazianzen on St Basil.
Two of these grandsons helped shape the Faith which we proclaim today—Basil the Great, a Doctor of the Church and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, who helped the Church better articulate her understanding of the Trinity. Both of these men played crucial roles in formulating the Nicene Creed which Catholics still recite every Sunday at Mass. Macrina raised both of these men and their influential younger sister, Macrina the Younger. She gave all these great Saints their first religious instruction as children.
The works of Basil indicate that she studied under Gregory Thaumaturgus (or the Wonderworker), the great father of the Faith in Cappadocia, he of whom it is said that when he arrived in the territory, there were only seventeen Christians in the Town of Neocaesarea; when he died in 268, there were only seventeen pagans. It was his teachings, handed down through Macrina to Basil and Gregory that were particularly formative for the two Cappadocian brothers.
Her home was at Neocaesarea in Pontus and according to Gregory Nazianzen, during the persecution of Christians under Galerius and Diocletian, Macrina fled with her husband to the shores of the Black Sea. They left their home and hid in the woods for seven years. They were often hungry and had to live off the land and whatever animals they could hunt. After they were finally allowed to go home to Neocaesarea, another round of persecution took effect and their possessions were confiscated. These trials are the reason for her patronage of the poor.
She was widowed and is also the Patron of widows. She is said to have died in the early 340s