The child Monir Bushra (his name before ordination to the priesthood) was born on 20th May 1941 in a place called ‘Saket Makeey’ in the district of Giza. His father was called Bushra Makar and his mother was called Mariam Gendy Mikhael. They had moved from the city of Samalot in the region of El Minya to live in Giza due to his father’s work commitments at a public company involved in the import and export trade and which was based in Cairo.
Monir was the firstborn of his parents, and he was greatly loved by them, and they brought him up with great care. They paid particular attention to his spiritual life from a young age. His parents were righteous and walked in the path of virtues and love for the poor. They embraced the example of St. Abraam, bishop of Fayoum, in the virtue of giving, and his parents would never refuse a request from a poor person. Monir was brought up to love others in particular the poor and needy.
During his early childhood the family was exposed to a lot of danger due to the Second World War. The shelling and bombs would often land on houses in their area, and the noise of the shells was deafening. Many homes were demolished as a result, and many of the occupants were left homeless. The family at that time lived in great worry, especially his mother Mariam, who greatly feared for the life of her then only son. As the air raid sirens sounded she would grab Monir, who was still only one year old, and hold him tight, and as the bombs began to fall around the house, and the explosions shock their surroundings, she would hold him tighter and tighter, in the hope that her body would become a protective cover for her son, and nothing would harm him. In all these difficulties the parents would lift their prayers to God to protect them and find them a safer place to live, away from these dangers.
God soon answered their prayers and they moved to a safer place. Their new home was in Embaba Street in a neighbourhood of Cairo called El Daher, in front of the church of the great Saint George. In this new home his brothers were also born, Nabil, Nageeb, and Makram. The family suffered a great and sudden tribulation with the departure of Makram from this life at a very tender age, but they quickly recovered through their prayers to God and recognising His comfort in their lives and His protection for them. Their prayers turned quickly to thanksgiving and to the words ‘thy will be done’, and they would say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Having overcome the falling shells and bombs in Giza and always remembering God’s remarkable rescue for them and their son Monir, another great tribulation fell upon the family once more. One day Monir fell seriously ill with gastroenteritis (which results in severe vomiting and diarrhoea) and pneumonia which threatened to end his life. He was only four at the time and his mother Mariam turned to God with much prayer and tears, asking for the intercessions of St. Mary and St. George. During her prayers she would weep so much that her tears would fall on her son with his angelic face, whom she held in her arms and on her lap.
It happened one late night and after a long time of praying that she was finally defeated by sleep due to her tiredness. She slept were she had been on the floor with her son in her arms, and she saw in a dream St. Mary, the Mother of God, handing her a bouquet of flowers and she took it in her hand. She immediately awoke to find her hand holding onto the hand of her son and moments later Monir awoke and got up and started running and playing in the room around her. The mother at first could not believe that Monir was healed and she called his father, who came running quickly. He took him immediately to the doctor and the doctor stated that the boy was fine and healthy and there was nothing to worry about. This confirmed to them the miracle which the Lord had done for them through the intercessions of St. Mary and they glorified God for His wonderful works.
From that time his mother Mariam took him to the church and presented him to the priest of the church and the choirmaster to take care of educating him in the hymns of the church and serving the altar. For when Monir was sick and she was asking for the intercessions of St. Mary, his mother prayed just as Hannah the mother of Samuel had prayed and said, “I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life”. The Holy Spirit had inspired her in her prayers and unawares she had prophesied about the priesthood which her son would one day hold although he was still a very young boy at the time.
The young boy Monir continued to grow and attended the Holy Liturgies regularly, partaking of the Holy Sacraments, and attending Sunday school. He loved the hymns of the church. He would spend much time trying to learn them and he was blessed with a wonderful voice. His Grace Bishop Theophilus, head of St. Mary’s monastery of Surian was one day praying the Holy Liturgy in the church of St. George El Daher and he ordained the young Monir to the rank of ‘Psaltos’ or ‘Cantor’ in the deaconate ranks. He was aged six at the time and he ordained his brothers Nabil and Nageeb at the same time.
When his father saw how dedicated he was to learning the hymns and listening to his wonderful voice, he brought him as a present a small set of cymbals and a triangle. Those cymbals and triangle went on to be the cause of many frictions with the neighbours as the young cantor spent long hours honing his skill and practising the hymns and reciting the Holy Liturgy in the house. He would often stay up late at night singing hymns to the extent that the neighbours complained saying, “Have you turned your home into a church or what… we can’t get to sleep because of the singing, the cymbals, and the triangle!!!”
This was the life of the child Monir, growing in virtue and grace. The more he grew the more his knowledge and love for the church, her dogma and her rites increased. His knowledge of hymns also increased. There was also a neighbour to the family called Mr Boulis Kheer. This neighbour had moved from Upper Egypt in the south, to Cairo. His relatives would often come and visit him, and amongst those relatives was a young boy named Tobia who would attend every year during the summer to spend the summer holidays with his relative.
During this time Tobia would spend all his time with his friend Monir. They were inseparable except at bedtime. Their friendship was so close that they would do everything together. They were known for their quietness and spirituality and they would attend all the church meetings and all the Holy Liturgies during the length of the summer.
Until the time would come to return to school and Tobia would return to Upper Egypt but they would remain in continual touch with each other until the following summer arrived. As for the quiet young spiritual Tobia, he went on to become His Grace Bishop Fam, the Bishop of Tema.
The young Monir began his education at the local primary school. He studied there for six years and graduated from there passing all his exams before moving onto a secondary school to continue his education. During this time he continued to attend Sunday School and Spiritual Meetings as well as the Holy Liturgies during the week and the feast days of the saints and the Feasts. During this time his great spiritual and educational level grew to become greater than his peers.
Having passed his Secondary exams, he then went on to study at a Higher Secondary Education school. His church and deacon service did not stop him from excelling in his education. A story which is told during his Higher Secondary Education studies was that he would leave the classroom with his friends during the time of the Islamic lesson, to preserve his Christian belief and dogma, and so as not to offend either his friends or those in the class by his presence. Once the Arabic teacher, who also gave the Islamic class objected to him leaving, despite there being no obligation on him to stay. Monir politely refused to stay and this angered the teacher who started attacking the Christian religion and questioning Monir about his faith. Although he was a young student at the time, Monir being filled with the Holy Spirit answered all his accusations calmly and in a persuasive manner with the knowledge he had at the time.
He was in fact so persuasive that the heart of the teacher was moved, and the Spirit of God convicted him to seek out more. He asked Monir to bring some books about the Christian belief, and Monir got the books from his father’s library. His father was also deeply knowledgeable in this area. The matter ended with the teacher spending much time studying the Christian belief and finally he was convinced by the reliability and truth of the Christian faith, all this because of the Holy Spirit which was in the young deacon Monir Bushra.
The young Monir was exceptionally bright. His favourite and best subject by far was mathematics. His desire was to become an accountant, and his wish came true when he finally finished his higher secondary education and he joined Cairo University to study business. Here and we stop to mention an important story which shows how God was planning his life. Once a youth came to him complaining of a problem which he had prayed a lot about but God did not answer him so what should he do? So Monir started to talk to him about the marvellous work of God in our lives and that he should leave all the matters in the hand of God and let his guide be “Thy will be done” for God knows best when and how to answer our requests. Many times our requests are not according to the will of God, and many times God delays in responding to our requests for reasons which become clear later. He delays because if He were to respond immediately the harm that would befall us would far out way the benefits, and God does not wish to harm us in any way.
This very advice came back to play an important role in his life. Monir went through a great tribulation during the last year of his higher secondary education when he was forced to repeat the year due to his exam results. This came as an incredible shock to him, for he was very diligent in his studies, and had revised hard for the exams. His family felt for his distress but they encouraged him with supportive words and he soon was working hard. He put his distress to one side from this unexpected tribulation. He would say to himself I am sure God had a reason for this, and sure enough there was a reason...
Monir repeated the year and he passed his final higher secondary education exams with excellent results, and his exam score allowed him to study business at the University of Cairo as was his original wish. The years went by with his peers being one year ahead of him. They graduated one year ahead of him and were all conscripted into the army as was required at the time. In that year they were sent out to fight the war in Yemen and sadly none of them were to return alive from that war. It was at this moment that Monir and his family realised how God’s divine plan and intervention in his life had preserved him from harm, for God had another mission for Monir to complete as His servant.
During the time he was in the Business school he was greatly loved by all his friends. He was known for his joyous spirit and wonderful smile. He would touch everyone who came in contact with him. He would rarely come home on his own, but would often bring back two or three of his friends to have lunch or dinner. He was so popular with the students that they made him head of the student union for the University. His activities also extended to performing as part of the university drama group. He also organised and supervised the many trips for the university students.
Due to his clear spiritual growth during the secondary school stage, the head of Sunday school for St. George’s Church, El Daher, appointed him a servant. In fact he was heavily reliant on Monir to serve those of primary school age. This was the beginnings of Monir’s blessed Sunday school service from an early age. Furthermore he did not stop in attending his own age group Sunday school with his friends to learn despite being appointed a servant.
As a result of his humility and meekness, he never felt himself better than his friends or other servants because he was younger than them in the service. Rather he felt the weight of responsibility on his shoulders and he would often pray to God to allow him to carry that responsibility faithfully.
His tribulation of having to repeat his final year would have caused many to give up hope and stop serving. However this had the opposite effect on Monir. He started to serve even more, least what befell him may have been due to a lack of service on his part, or so he would often think. He did not allow this tribulation to trouble him, but he threw it over his shoulder and instead proceeded to throw his entire strength at studying and serving God even more. His spirituality increased day by day under the guidance of his spiritual father, and next to his Sunday school service he was dedicated to his serve as a deacon. He also had other services such as supervising the church’s drama group and organising trips for the youth to the monasteries, the holy sites, and the leisure destinations around Egypt.
Many a person who was far from God returned to the church during this time because of this youthful God loving servant.
Monir graduated from business school and almost immediately started work as an accountant for a accountancy firm of Mr Louis Mikhael in 1965. He was honest and dedicated in his work. This was to the extent that when he moved to work as a manager in Shamla Company in Cairo, Mr Mikhael refused to let him go and he agreed to work for Mr Mikhael on certain evenings as well as working for Shamla Company. In 1969 he moved to become head of accounts at Elewayat of Egypt Company, he worked for three years there until he was chosen to be ordained a priest for the church of St. George in El Daher.
An incident which also occurred to him during his youth was that one day he suddenly suffered severe pain in his abdomen area, and his father and family took him to see Doctor Morris Ameen Awad, who diagnosed the pain as appendicitis requiring immediate and urgent surgery to remove the appendix. His mother became greatly distressed due to the dangers of the operation and she asked his brother Nageeb to go to the old patriarchate in Klot Bay and ask for the prayers of His Holiness Pope Kyrillos VI for Monir.
It was the habit of Pope Kyrillos VI to sit on a chair in the middle of the hall in the old patriarchate for anyone to take the blessings from him. Naturally many would attend to take his holiness’ blessings and on the day Nageeb attended the place was crowded with people wishing to take the blessings of his holiness that Nageeb could not think of a way to reach his holiness. He then decided to leave to rejoin the family back at the clinic.
As he was thinking of leaving his holiness Pope Kyrillos VI called to him, “Come here, you tall person from El Minya who is standing there”. Nageeb approached his holiness and said to him, “But I am not from El Minya your holiness”. At this his holiness gave him a sharp look with his eyes and hit him with the cross on his head saying, “Alright, you who comes from Samalot then, or is Samalot no longer in El Minya” (This his holiness said referring to his parents and ancestry who come from Samalot in El Minya).
His holiness then said to him, “Take this cotton soaked in oil and go and wipe it on the side which hurts your brother, and tell him not to fear he will recover”. Nageeb went and followed the instructions of his holiness and told Monir what his holiness had said. The operation took place and Monir made a speedier than usual recovery. What was nice about this incident was that His Holiness Pope Kyrillos VI did not know Nageeb and yet the Spirit of God had revealed to his holiness who he was and why he had come.