This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31 -- Feast of Saint Marcella of Rome

The Gothic he-man nun-beaters club arrives in Rome.
Born in 325 (and thus living within the era of legalized Christianity), this wealthy, beautiful and aristocratic young woman grew up in a reverent home.  Indeed, Saint Athanasius stayed with the family during one of his exiles from Alexandria.  It was the sort of household where theology was freely discussed,   even though that was a subject that could get you exiled or killed if you said the wrong thing.  Naturally, young Marcella was impressed by such an influential Church leader.  He told her stories of desert hermits and miracles, strengthening her resolve to serve God.

Hanging at home with Saint Jerome
Her mother, Albina, persuaded her to take a husband, but his death seven months later gave her the opportunity to devote the rest of her life to chaste religious service.  She opened her house to other women who wanted to dedicate their lives to God.  Together, they dressed in plain brown dresses, studied scriptures, donated to the poor, and sheltered religious leaders.  Saint Jerome, who stayed with Marcella in this early Roman convent while he translated the Bible into Vulgate Latin, maintained a profoundly and mutually respectful relationship with his hostess.  She studied languages and theology under his tutelage, while sometimes advising him on his translations and more frequently helping him check his infamous temper. 

Marcella was still alive in 410 (eighty-five years old) when Alaric and his merry Goths sacked Rome.  They raided Marcella's mansion, finding many women in cheap brown dresses but no gold, silver, or other valuables.  They refused to believe that these aristocratic ladies had sold everything and given the money away to the poor, so they began to torture Marcella.  Eventually they were persuaded that there was nothing to take and so they left.  The other women carried Marcella to a nearby sanctuary, but she died there the following day.  

Martyred by pagan looters is a good way to become a saint.  Hosting both Athanasius and Jerome in your home is another.  Deciding as a comely and wealthy young widow to live in chastity and poverty is yet another.  I'd say she pretty much ran the table.