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April 19, 2012

Holy New Martyr Michael the Breadseller (+ 1547)

Saint Michael the Mauroudis (Feast Day - March 21 and Thursday of Bright Week)


Not simply a martyr, but an orator of the divine word,
You showed yourself to be O all-blessed Michael.

Born in Granitsa, in the Agrapha area of Greece, of the pious and God-fearing parents Demetrios and Statera, Michael was brought up in the Orthodox Christian tradition. His parents were regular church attendants, and from an early age Michael took his religion very seriously. When his father died, Michael was quite young, so he was brought up by his mother. Later when he came of age, she arranged an Orthodox Christian marriage for him.

Some time later Michael moved to the city of Thessalonike where he worked as a breadseller. In Thessaloniki he became well-known not only for his genuine piety but also for his many kind acts and works of charity. In addition he rarely if ever missed any church services and listened attentively to the Scripture readings. In fact he had a great desire to become a monk, but he was reminded it was not right to abandon his wife.

On the feast of Mid-Lent (Third Sunday of Great Lent), Michael did not remain in church after the end of service, as was his custom, to hear the spiritual readings that were read, but went straight to the shop and sat for a time. Soon a Muslim boy known to Michael came to his shop to buy bread. Michael began to engage him in conversation , something he had done before. This time he asked the boy what he believed and whether or not he understood what his teachers told him about his Muslim faith.

By chance the boy's Muslim teacher appeared and the boy told him of Michael's questions and conversation. The teacher then said to Michael: "What is this you are saying to the boy, you infidel? You curse our faith which is glorious and honored, and our dress is glorious and priceless."

To this Michael replied: "With the grace of my Christ, the true God, I am faithful and truly pious, and I know what I say and what I believe, so much that I am ready to die for my faith. But you miserable men neither know what you say nor what you do. Truly you are mistaken and move in darkness. You have a religion full of myths and creatures."

This exchange attracted other Muslims who stood nearby and after hearing some of what was said, they took hold of Michael and brought him before the kadi, charging him with having insulted the Muslim faith and the prophet Muhammad.

When Michael was brought before the kadi, he was questioned about his Orthodox faith. To this questioning, Michael gave intelligent and brave responses which angered the kadi,* especially when he denied that Muhammad was a legitimate prophet. For this, Michael was sentenced to burned at the stake, to which Michael replied in a loud voice: "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who is true god and my Creator and Maker. I am ready, if necessary, to suffer tortures for his love. So from whatever money I have, take it and buy wood to burn me, for I do not wish to be offered as a sacrifice to God with your wood."

As soon as he said that he spit on the kadi and the papers he was holding. The kadi responded by having Michael put on the floor and flogged severely. Then he was put in jail.

Orthodox Christians who knew the jailer visited Michael whom they found chained, but calm and unafraid. In fact he related to them the following visitation he had:

Last night when I prayed my Lord appeared and strengthened my weakness and gave my soul courage, telling me: "Michael, my athlete, rejoice. Just as I put forward my soul and suffered death by crucifixion for your sake and for all humanity, in the same way it is necessary for you to die for my love so you might live and reign with me. See to it then that you are not afraid of the fire, for the fear is only in its appearance, and its taste is to be scorned. You will with all this be strengthened by my unconquerable power."

"Saying this," Michael added, "the Lord blessed me and left and I was enveloped by such incredible love and joy that I can't hold myself back. I can only wait for that blessed day to come that will separate me from this world and allow me to join my Christ."

A few days later a high-ranking kadi came and questioned Michael further, to which Michael replied with great boldness. Seeing his resolve, the kadi, although moved by Michael's testimony, nevertheless sentenced him to death. The official sentence read as follows:

Michael, of Orthodox Christian parents, moved by his own accord, came before me and many notables who happened to be in my court, and openly confessed Christ, that the prophets prophesied about him, and that the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus Christ is primarily and truly the birthgiver of God. And he added this also, there were prophets up to the time of Christ, but those who followed are liars and deceivers, and openly called our prophet Muhammad a liar and a deceiver and degraded him with other insults, and therefore, being unwilling to repent over what he said, the law has decided to deliver him to the fire on the twenty-first of March, the fifth day of the week, at the ninth hour.

To frighten Michael at the place of execution, which was the courtyard of the Church of the Presentation of Christ, they placed his hands in the fire, then they took off most of his clothes and covered his body with sulfur. They then placed him in the fire and he ignited, singing hymns until the very end.

Thus Michael the Breadseller of Granitsa died for the love of Jesus Christ in Thessaloniki on March 21, in the year 1547 (some sources say 1544).

* This exchange can be read in Nomikos Michael Vaporis' book Witnesses For Christ, pp. 69-75, from which the above account was abridged.