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St. Paula

Paula was born in 347 at Rome to one of the noble families. She was widowed at age 32 in 379 and began to lead a pious life influenced by St. Marcella and her group of widows. She met St. Jerome, St. Epiphanius, and Paulinus of Antioch in 382 and through their influence felt drawn to Eastern monastic life. St. Jerome gave lessons in Sacred Scripture to Marcella’s group, which included Paula. Paula was a brilliant student of languages. With her daughter, Eustochium she learned Hebrew fluently in order to better study Scripture. Eustochium would be her mother’s faithful companion. Paula arranged for her daughter Paulina to marry the Roman senator Pammachius. Her daughter Blesilla was also married, but became a widow and died young in 384. Paula’s daughter Rufina died two years later. Paula’s son Toxotius was converted from paganism and baptized in 385. In August 385, St. Jerome traveled to the Holy Land; Paula and Eustochium followed him a month later. After making a pilgrimage through the Holy Land they settled in Bethlehem and began to follow a monastic rule of life. Jerome was their chaplain and lived in a small house short way from the convent. They eventually founded two monasteries, one for men and one for women. At Bethlehem, the learned Paula and Eustochium helped Jerome with his great work of translating the Scriptures into Latin. Some the letters between them and St. Jerome are still in existence. Life in Bethlehem was not without problems; there was controversy over Origenism and then Paula had money troubles, brought on by her generous almsgiving. She died in 404 in the midst of these problems. St. Jerome wrote of her life in one of his letters. Her feast day is January 26.

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