|ST. MELANIA (THE YOUNGER)
|Born at Rome, about 383; died in
Jerusalem, 31 December, 439. She was a member of the famous family of Valerii.
Her parents were Publicola and Albina, her paternal grandmother of the same name
is known as Melania, Senior. Little is known of the saint's childhood, but after
the time of her marriage, which occurred in her thirteenth year, we have more
definite information. Through obedience to her parents she married one of her
relatives, Pinianus a patrician. During her married life of seven years she had
two children who died young. After their death Melania's inclination toward a
celibate life reasserting itself, she secured her husband's consent and entered
upon the path of evangelic perfection, parting little by little with all her
wealth. Pinianus, who now assumed a brotherly position toward her, was her
companion in all her efforts toward sanctity. Because of the Visigothic
invasions of Italy, she left Rome in 408, and for two years lived near Messina
in Sicily. Here, their life of a monastic character was shared by some former
slaves. In 410 she went to Africa where she and Pinianus lived with her mother
for seven years, during which time she grew well acquainted with St. Augustine
and his friend Alypius. She devoted herself to works of charity and piety,
especially in her zeal for souls, to the foundation of a nunnery of which she
became superior, and of a cloister of which Pinianus took charge. In 417,
Melania, her mother, and Pinianus went to Palestine by way of Alexandria. For a
year they lived in a hospice for pilgrims in Jerusalem, where she met St.
Jerome. She again made generous donations, upon the receipt of money from the
sale of her estates in Spain. About this time she travelled in Egypt, where she
visited the principal places of monastic and eremetical life, and upon her
return to Jerusalem she lived for twelve years, in a hermitage near the Mount of
Olives. Before the death of her mother (431), a new series of monastic
foundations had begun. She started with a convent for women on the Mount of
Olives, of which she assumed the maintenance while refusing to be made its
superior. After her husband's death she built a cloister for men, then a chapel,
and later, a more pretentious church. During this last period (Nov., 436), she
went to Constantinople where she aided in the conversion of her pagan uncle,
Volusian, ambassador at the Court of Theodosius II, and in the conflict with
Nestorianism. An interesting episode in her later life is the journey of the
Empress Eudocia, wife of Theodosius, to Jerusalem in 438. Soon after the
empress's return Melania died.
The Greek Church began to venerate her shortly after her death, but she was almost unknown in the Western Church for many years. She has received greater attention since the publication of her life by Cardinal Rampolla (Rome, 1905). In 1908, Pius X granted her office to the congregation of clergy at Somascha. This may be considered as the beginning of a zealous ecclesiastical cult, to which the saint's life and works have entitled her. Melania's life has been shrouded in obscurity nearly up to the present time; many people having wholly or partially confounded her with her grandmother Antonia Melania. The accurate knowledge of her life we owe to the discovery of two manuscripts; the first, in Latin, was found by Cardinal Rampolla in the Escorial in 1884, the second, a Greek biography, is in the Barberini library. Cardinal Rampolla published both these important discoveries at the Vatican printing-office.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press,
Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc.
Provided Courtesy of: