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Saint of the Day - Saint Lea (March 22)

In reality, all that we know about Saint Lea comes from her friend and contemporary, Saint Jerome (feast day September 30 - Doctor of the Church). It is contained in a letter to Saint Marcella (feast day January 31). Join me in my quest to learn a little something about Saint Lea!

Image retrieved from and used as being in the public domain

Saint Lea appears to have been friends with Saint Jerome, the scholarly monk who translated the Bible into Latin from its original Greek.

It appears that she was of a Roman noble family and that she married at a young age. However, she was widowed early into thew marriage and was left on sound financial footing by her deceased husband. However, rather than retire and live off of the money her husband left her, she chose, instead, to join a group of consecrated virgins living in a convent in the city and gave up her riches. She used her money to support the convent, which was run by Saint Marcella (I remember a Sister Marcella from the Teaching Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who was one of may teachers at St. Thomas More back home in Decatur and every time I read or type that name, I think of her). Saint Lea took on the most menial tasks and no job was too dirty for her. Eventually, she was the Superior and/or Prioress of the convent.

From all appearances, Saint Lea died in 384, while Saint Jerome and Saint Marcella were working on and reading the 73rd Psalm. Moreover, it appears that Saint Jerome is writing to others and Saint Marcella to inform them of the death of Saint Lea. Because Saint Jerome does not write about Lea biographically, it gives the impression that Saint Marcella knew Saint Lea. Saint Jerome refers to Saint Lea as being "blessed", which indicates that she was worthy of going straight to Heaven. Saint Jerome concentrates on Saint Lea's virtues.

In his letter, Saint Jerome first compares Saint Lea to the parable of Lazarus and draws some rather deep parallels:

"Who will praise the blessed Lea as she deserves? She renounced painting her face and adorning her head with shining pearls. She exchanged her rich attire for sackcloth, and ceased to command others in order to obey all. She dwelt in a corner with a few bits of furniture; she spent her nights in prayer, and instructed her companions through her example rather than through protests and speeches. And she looked forward to her arrival in heaven in order to receive her recompense for the virtues which she practiced on earth."

Saint Jerome goes on to compare Saint Lea to the Roman consul who lives his life in lavish luxury and finds himself burning in hell in pure agony in the afterlife:

"We must not allow … money to weigh us down, or lean upon the staff of worldly power. We must not seek to possess both Christ and the world. No; things eternal must take the place of things transitory; and since, physically speaking, we daily anticipate death, if we wish for immortality we must realize that we are but mortal."

In so doing, Saint Jerome appears to be emphasizing to Saint Marcella the importance of living for Christ and dying to the secular world, as Saint Lea did.



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