Saint Pammachius, Basilica Ss. Giovanni e Paolo, Rome
Pammachius the Senator (RM)
Died at Rome, Italy, in 410. The Roman senator, proconsul, and scholar, Pammachius, belonged to the house of the Furii. In 385, he married Paulina, the second daughter of Saint Paula. He spent much of his time in study and religious affairs. He was a great friend of Saint Jerome, his former school fellow.
Pammachius was probably one of the religious men who denounced to Pope Saint Siricius a certain man named Jovinian, who maintained among other errors that all sins and their punishments are equal; he certainly sent copies of the heretic's writings to Jerome, who replied to them in a long treatise. This reply did not meet with the entire approval of Saint Pammachius: he found its language too strong (a failing to which Jerome was generally very inclined) and that it contained exaggerated praise of virginity and depreciation of marriage; so he wrote and told him so. Jerome replied in two letters, thanking him for his interest and defending what he had written. Meanwhile, Jovinian was condemned at a synod at Rome in 390 and by Archbishop Saint Ambrose of Milan.
When Paulina died in childbirth in 397, Pammachius provided a banquet for all the poor of Rome following her funeral Mass. He received a long letter of condolence from his friend Saint Paulinus of Nola, who praised her goodness and her husband's faith and fortitude. The letter ended: "Your spouse is now a pledge and a powerful intercessor for you with Jesus Christ. She now obtains for you as many blessings in heaven as you have sent her treasures [Masses] from hence, not honoring her memory with fruitless tears, but making her partner of these living gifts (i.e., by alms given for the repose of her soul); she is honored by the merit of your virtues; she is fed by the bread you have given to the poor." Saint Jerome tells us that Pammachius watered her ashes with the balm of alms and mercy, which obtains the pardon of sins; that from the time of her death he made the needy their coheirs.
Thus, Pammachius devoted the balance of his life to study, prayer, and works of charity. (Some say that he donned the monastic habit and received ordination to the presbyteriate, but this seems unlikely.) Together with Saint Fabiola he built at Porto a large hospice to shelter pilgrims coming to Rome, especially the poor and the sick. This was the first such enterprise in the West. Pammachius and Fabiola spent much time there personally tending to their guests.
Pammachius was enormously disturbed by the bitter controversy between Jerome and Saint Rufinus over the teachings of Origen. He wrote to Jerome urging him to undertake the translation of Origen's De principiis, and gave Jerome very useful help in his controversial writings, but he could not convince Jerome to tone down the language of his works.
Pammachius also wrote to the people living on his estates in Numidia in North Africa to urge them to abandon the Donatist schism and return to the Church. This action drew a letter of thanks from Saint Augustine in 401. Pammachius converted his home on the Coelian Hill into the present Passionist church of Saint John and Saint Paul, which was called the titulus Pammachii. Remains of the original house have been found beneath the church (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth, Walsh).
Roman senator, d. about 409. In youth he frequented the schools of rhetoric with St. Jerome. In 385 he married Paulina, second daughter of St. Paula. He was probably among the viri genere optimi religione præclari, who in 390 denounced Jovinian to Pope St. Siricius (Ambrose, Ep. xli). When he attacked St. Jerorme's book against Jovinian for prudential reasons, Jerome wrote him two letters (Epp. xlviii-ix, ed. Vallarsi) thanking him; the first, vindicating the book, was probably intended for publication. On Paulina's death in 397, Pammachius became a monk, that is, put on a religious habit and gave himself up to works of charity (Jerome, Ep. lxvi; Paulinus of Nola, Ep. xiii). In 399 Pammachius and Oceanus wrote to St. Jerome asking him to translate Origen's "De Principiis", and repudiate the insinuation of Rufinus that St. Jerome was of one mind with himself with regard to Origen. St. Jerome replied the following year (Epp. lxxxiii-iv). In 401 Pammachius was thanked by St. Augustine (Ep. lviii) for a letter he wrote to the people of Numidia, where he owned property, exhorting them to abandon the Donatist schism. Many of St. Jerome's commentaries on Scripture were dedicated to Pammachius. After his wife's death Pammachius built in conjunction with St. Fabiola (Jerome, Epp. lxvi, lxxvii), a hospice at Porto, at the mouth of the Tiber, for poor strangers. The site has been excavated, and the excavations have disclosed the plan and the arrangement of this only building of its kind. Rooms and halls for the sick and poor were grouped around it (Frothingham, "The Monuments of Christian Rome," p. 49). The church of SS. John and Paul was founded either by Pammachius or his father. It was anciently known first as the Titulus Bizantis, and then as the Titulus Pammachii. The feast of Pammachius is kept on 30 August.
CEILLIER, Hist. des auteurs eccles., X, 99 sqq.; TILLEMONT, Mémoires, vol. X, p. 567; GRISAR, Storia di Roma, I, 73; LANCIANI, Pagan and Christian Rome, 158-9; MARUCCHI, Eléments d'Archéol. chrét., 203.
Bacchus, Francis Joseph. "St. Pammachius." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 30 Aug. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11436a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert and St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.