Everything at the service of GodDecember 31, 2011 No Comments
December 31, 2011 | CatholicDaily.com
(Society of Saints) - Today, 31 Dec 2011, is the feast day of St Melania the Younger. Her paternal grandmother is St Melania the Elder. As we pause to look back over the events, blessings and graces of 2011 St Melania’s holy life can help us reflect about how well we have used our time, our talents and our income in God’s service.
St Melania was born to wealthy Roman citizens, Publicola and Albina, around 383. When they died she inherited an immense fortune, together with property in many nations trading with Italy at that time and thousands of slaves. At age 14 she was reluctantly married to a relative, Pinian. Her heart’s desire was to remain a virgin, and to consecrate herself to Jesus. Failing that she wanted to live in continence with her husband, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Melania gave birth to two children, a girl then a boy, who died very young. After much persuasion, her husband agreed to live in continence with her and to join her in charitable works and in the pursuit of holiness.
Following the death of her father, Melania left Rome with Pinian and her mother and retired to a country estate. Here they took time to grow in prayer, to adjust to a simpler life and to set about begining works of charity – helping the poor, sheltering strangers, assisting the sick, visiting prisoners. Soon the decision was made that they could help far more people if they sold property. They began with selling the Italian properties, and gave the proceeds to the poor, to monasteries and for the building of churches. About 8 thousand slaves were given their freedom.
When this was done, Melania’s attention turned to the sale of her north African properties. So in 408 they went to Africa and ended up being of great assistance to St Augustine of Hippo. Melania increased her fasting, prayer vigils and began wearing sackcloth. Her early education was put to good use in diligently transcribing manuscript after manuscript without error. Two new north African monasteries, one for men and one for women, owed their establishment to Melania’s inspiration and generosity.
From Hippo they journeyed to Jerusalem, through Alexandria, visiting the Desert Fathers. They continued to sell property to aid the monks of the Egyptian deserts, and eventually became poor themselves. Melania was introduced to St Jerome, and became one of his close friends and colleagues. They settled in Jerusalem around 420, building a monastery and convent on the Mount of Olives. Wherever she went, women were attracted to her lifestyle of asceticism and prayer, and convents began.
She had a great zeal for souls, and travelled to Constantinople to aid the conversion of her pagan uncle Volusian. Following the death of her mother in 431, and the death of Pinian died 432, and Melania began a life of greater solitude. Shortly afterwards she founded a convent for the Church of the Ascension, and directed them to sing the Divine Office continually for her mother and her husband. She spent Christmas 439 with her cousin St Paula at Bethlehem and prepared for death by making a farewell visit to the monks and women religious, begging them to pray for her. The Lord, Whom she had served so well, called her to heaven on 31 December 439.
Everything she had, St Melania placed at the service of God. Her wealth went to those in need, to the poor and the sick, and to building churches and monasteries and in generous gifts to existing monasteries. She used her talents and her time to the best of her ability; serving and writing, praying and encouraging others to live the Christian life more fully. Only God knows just how much immense good St Melania accomplished in her life-time and how much the world is still benefiting from it.
May St Melania help us to serve God as generously as she did.
St Melania the Younger, St Pinian and all the holy members of your family, pray for us.
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