Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Malchus, Confessor

Saint Malchus, ConfessorArticle

Saint Malchus, whose life was written by Saint Jerome, who had been well acquainted with him. Malchus was born at a poor village, called Maronia, about thirty miles from Antioch in Syria. His parents were farmers, and living very piously, early led their son into the path of virtue and piety, by word as well as by example. When however, they desired that Malchus should take a wife, he secretly left his home, and went to the hermits in the desert of Chalcis, where he lived a chaste, austere and holy life. After many years, some one brought him news that his father had died and that his mother was sad and lonely. Malchus determined immediately to repair home, to assist his mother and, after her death, to give one part of his possessions to the poor, another to the building of a monastery, whilst the remainder would suffice for his own support. The pious Abbot, whom he made acquainted with this plan, endeavored to dissuade him from putting it into effect, saying that thus he endangered his body and his soul. But Malchus would receive neither counsel nor admonition, and set out on his journey home. His road lay through a dense forest which was made extremely unsafe by the Saracens who robbed travellers, or carried them away into slavery. To be safer Malchus joined some other persons who were to traverse the forest. Hardly, however, had they travelled half of the journey, when they were attacked by a great number of Ishmaelites on horseback and on camels. Some of the travellers saved themselves by flight, others were killed, and the rest taken prisoners. Among the latter were Malchus and a woman, who were seized by an Ishmaelite, bound upon a horse and thus carried off into slavery. Malchus now recognized, when it was too late, the mistake he had made. When he arrived at the dwellings of the Ishmaelites, he was charged with the care of a flock of sheep on a lonely mountain. With a sorrowful heart, he submitted to the will of Providence, and turning his imprisonment and the work entrusted to him to the best advantage, he endeavored to lead an edifying life. Most of his time he occupied in prayer and meditation; and he offered to God everything he had to suffer as an atonement for his sin, of which he ever repented from the bottom of his heart. The Ishmaelite who had captured Malchus seeing how carefully his flocks were guarded, began to become attached to his good slave, and, in order to retain him more securely, wished him to. take as a wife, the woman who had been taken captive at the same time. Malchus was horrified at this proposal, not only because he determined to live in perpetual chastity, but also, because he knew the woman was married and that her husband had been taken by another Ishmaelite whom he served as a slave. Hence, he said to his master, that he was a Christian, and as such, could not take a woman who already had a husband. The barbarian, enraged at not being obeyed, without any hesitation, drew his sword and threatened to kill him, if he did not immediately comply with his command. Malchus apparently consented, and thus satisfied his master. But as soon as he was alone with the woman in the hut which had been assigned them, he was very unhappy and wept bitterly; he even went so far as to say that he would take his own life rather than unite himself to a married woman; as to die in chastity seemed much easier for him than to commit so horrible a crime. The woman who was also a pious Christian, restrained him from destroying himself, by representing to him that they might remain together in Christian charity and harmony, and yet live in perfect chastity. Malchus, on hearing this proposal, breathed freely once more; and both lived for some time together, in great peace and innocence, which they obtained from God by continual and fervent prayer The Ismaelite was well satisfied, and discarded all his former suspicions that his slave would escape. Meanwhile Malchus often thought, with deep regret, of his quiet sojourn with the pious monks, whom he had so unwisely abandoned. His companion, perceiving his sadness, asked him the reason of it. Malchus informed her of it; whereupon she made the proposal that they should secretly escape. This was a very dangerous undertaking; but by the grace of God it succeeded. They left the hut in the darkness of night and made all possible speed. Coming to a river, they swam safely across. On the third day, however, they perceived two men riding on swift camels who seemed to be pursuing them. They trembled with fear, being convinced that the riders were either two servants of their master, or the master himself accompanied by a servant. The fugitives knew that death would be their punishment, if they were overtaken. Not having any other resource, they called on God to assist them. To escape by flight was impossible; hence they endeavored to hide themselves, and seeing a cavern which was of considerable width and depth, they entered it, though not without fear that it might be the abode of some wild animal which would tear them to pieces. On entering it they found a hole on one side, in which they concealed themselves. The riders, who were in fact, their master and one of his servants, saw them go into the cavern, and having arrived at its mouth, both dismounted. The servant went into the cave, with his sword drawn, calling on the fugitives with a loud voice. Not seeing them, he called their names with all his might. A lioness, which was at the further end of the cavern with her young ones, probably fearing that she would be robbed of them, came at one bound out of the darkness, attacked the servant, killed him with one bite and dragged his bleeding corpse into the depth of the cavern. The master, without knowing anything of this, thought that the fugitives were fighting with the servant, and ran also with his naked sword into the cavern, uttering loud imprecations on his servant for allowing himself to be kept at bay so long by the fugitives. The lioness, called again out of her retreat by these loud cries, tore him in pieces, as she had done to the other. All this was witnessed by Malchus and his companion, with fear and trembling, as they knew not what might happen to them; and it is easy to imagine how fervently they called on God for help. At length, venturing forth from their hiding-place, they found the two camels and a good supply of provisions. Having appeased their hunger, they mounted the camels, and, in a few days, arrived at the Roman Camp. Sabinus, the General, bought the camels of them and allowed them to continue on their way. Malchus returned to the monks in the desert, and placed his companion in a nunnery. Saint Jerome writes that all these facts were related to him by Saint Malchus himself. How holy a life he led after his escape from so many dangers, how deeply he repented of his fault and how humbly he thanked the Almighty for his wonderful assistance, need not be told. On account of the many and distinguished virtues, which he continued to practice until his end, he has been invoked and venerated since his death as a Saint.

Practical Considerations

From the life of Saint Malchus learn how wrong it is to follow our own inclinations, and despise the advice or admonitions of others. Hence the elder Tobias gave the following counsel to his son: “Seek counsel always of a wise man” (Tobit 4). And the Holy Ghost exhorts us saying: “My son, do thou nothing without counsel, and thou shalt not repent when thou hast done” (Eccles. 32). And again: “He that is wise, harkens unto counsels.” (Proverbs 12) Saint Bernard writes on the same subject: “Whoever considers himself his own master,” (which means, who follows his own head in everything and despises the counsel of others), “gives himself to a fool as disciple.” Learn further, how to submit in all circumstances to the divine decrees, and to turn them to your own benefit; how you must act when, without any fault of your own, you are in danger of offending God; and lastly, how miraculously God protects the lovers of chastity. This last point Saint Jerome dwells upon especially, as a wholesome lesson.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Malchus, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 May 2018. Web. 25 September 2018. <>