On this day: Amma Syncletica

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches commemorate Amma Syncletica of Alexandria, 380 - c.460.

To see an icon of Amma Syncletica by Eileen McGuckin, click here.

"Amma Syncletica was born in Alexandria into a well-respected Christian family of Macedonian heritage. Her two brothers died at relatively young ages and her sister was blind. Syncletica began her ascetical practices in her parents' home. She was well educated and had a reputation for her beauty.

"At the death of her parents, Amma Syncletica sold all her possessions and distributed the family wealth among the poor. She then cut her hair as a sign of consecration and moved with her blind sister to the family tomb outside Alexandria. Here she began her life as a desert ascetic.

"As women began to gather around her, Amma Syncletica reluctantly agreed to serve as their spiritual mentor, training them in the disciplines of the inner life."

"Amma Syncletica lived into her eighties and died after three and a half years of intense physical suffering, most likely from cancer. 'For this is the great asceticism: to control oneself in illness and to sing hymns of thanksgiving to God.'"

--from The Forgotten Desert Mothers: Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women, by Laura Swan, O.S.B.

Sr. Swan's book, in addition to chapters on Ammas and Deaconesses, contains a Timeline of the Forgotten Desert Mothers, a Calendar of Feasts of Holy Women, the Ordination Rite of Deacons, and a Bibliography helpful to anyone interested in the roles filled by women in the early Church.

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