Sainte Mélanie la Jeune
Fondatrice de monastères, recluse au mont des Oliviers (+ 439)
A quatorze ans, cette jeune aristocrate romaine épousa son cousin Pinien qui en avait dix-sept. Dix ans plus tard, ils perdirent leurs deux enfants et décident d'un commun accord de suivre les conseils évangéliques. Riches, ils liquident tous leurs biens et quittent Rome peu avant qu'Alaric vienne la piller. Ils se retirent d'abord en Sicile puis à Thagaste dont le diocèse a pour pasteur un ami et voisin, saint Augustin, évêque d'Hippone. Ils y amènent avec eux quinze eunuques et autant de servantes. Toutes les terres de Thagaste leur appartiennent. Les fidèles veulent que Pinien soit leur évêque, car ce serait la fortune assurée pour la communauté chrétienne. Mais Pinien et Mélanie s'en vont à Jérusalem. Pinien y meurt en 440 (ou 432), Mélanie fonde un monastère non loin du lieu de l'Ascension, sur le Mont des Oliviers. Elle y meurt, de retour de la fête de Noël à Bethléem.
À Jérusalem, sainte Mélanie la Jeune, qui, avec son époux, saint Pinien, quitta la ville de Rome, se rendit dans la Ville sainte et y mena la vie religieuse parmi les femmes consacrées à Dieu, tandis que son mari en faisait de même parmi les moines: tous deux firent une sainte mort elle en 439, lui en 440.
Le 31 décembre, clôture de la Nativité et mémoire de notre vénérable Mère Mélanie la Romaine
Au moment où l'Eglise prenait rang parmi les institutions officielles de l'empire romain, certaines dames de la haute aristocratie de Rome, conquises par les récits des exploits ascétiques des moines d'Egypte et par les exhortations enflammées de Saint Jérôme , renoncèrent aux vanités du monde pour embrasser la voie étroite qui mène au Royaume des cieux. Saintes Asella, Fabiola, Marcelle, Sainte Paule et sa fille Eustochium, Sainte Métanie l'Ancienne et sa petite-fille Mélanie la Jeune dont nous célébrons la mémoire le 31 décembre , ont toutes abandonné richesses, gloire et vie délicate pour se consacrer aux oeuvres de bienfaisance et aux travaux de l'ascèse, soit à Rome même, soit en Terre Sainte.
Née en 383, Valéria
Mélania dut épouser contre son gré un de ses proches parents, Pinien, alors
qu'elle avait à peine quatorze ans. Sitôt la cérémonie des noces achevée elle
proposa à son jeune époux de vivre dans la continence ; celui-ci résista un peu
et proposa d'assurer d'abord leur postérité en ayant deux enfants et de
renoncer ensuite ensemble au monde. Il leur naquit d'abord une fille, qu'ils
consacrèrent à Dieu immédiatement. Tout en gardant les apparences de la vie
mondaine d'une riche aristocrate, la jeune Mélanie commençait pourtant à porter
un tissu rugueux sous ses robes de soie et à mener en secret une vie de
mortification. En 403, elle mit prématurément au monde un fils qui mourut peu
après, et elle n'échappa elle-même à la mort qu'après avoir fait jurer à son
époux de ne pas différer davantage son désir. Sa grand-mère, Mélanie
l'Ancienne, était revenue d'Orient l'année précédente, au bout de trente-sept
ans d'absence, pour la soutenir et encourager sa sainte résolution. Finalement
libérés de toute attache à la suite de la mort de leur fille et du père de
Pinien les deux époux quittèrent leur somptueuse demeure pour se retirer dans
une de leurs propriétés des environs de Rome et se consacrer aux soins des
voyageurs et au secours des malades et des prisonniers. Mélanie confectionna
elle-même une grossière tunique pour Pinien, et, méditant l'exemple de Celui
qui, de riche qu'Il était en Sa divinité, s'est fait pauvre et a assumé notre
nature misérable afin de l'enrichir par Sa pauvreté (cf. II Cor. 8, 9), elle
s'employa à liquider son immense fortune; car Pinien et elle avaient vu en rêve
qu'il leur faudrait franchir un mur élevé avant de passer par une porte étroite
pour parvenir au Royaume de Cieux. Mais la tâche n'était pas si aisée : leurs
propriétés s'étendaient dans tout l'empire, de la Bretagne à l'Afrique et de
l'Espagne à l'Italie, leurs demeures étaient si splendides que seul l'empereur
pouvait en être l'acquéreur. La distribution de telles richesses remettait en
question l'économie même de l'état, et certains de leurs parents, membres
influents du Sénat, faisaient tout pour les empêcher de réaliser leur projet.
Toutefois, grâce à l'intervention de l'impératrice, Mélanie commença par
affranchir 8000 de ses esclaves, en donnant à chacun trois pièces d'or ; puis,
par l'intermédiaires d'hommes de confiance, elle fit couler des flots-d'or
d'Occident en Orient: églises et monastères furent fondés un peu partout; or,
pierreries, vaisselles et tissus précieux furent consacrés au Service Divin ;
des territoires entiers furent cédés à l'Eglise ou le produit de leur vente
distribué en aumônes. Les Goths d'Alaric ayant pris Rome en 410 et semant
partout la terreur en Italie, les deux époux passèrent en Sicile avec soixante
vierges et trente moines, puis de là en Afrique du Nord, où ils achevèrent la
liquidation de leurs biens en fondant des monastères et en portant secours aux
victimes de l'invasion barbare.
« Si tu veux être parfait, va, vends ce que tu possèdes et donne-le aux pauvres, et tu auras un trésor dans les cieux, puis viens et suis-moi » (Mat. 19, 21). Contrairement au jeune homme riche de l'Evangile, Mélanie se dépouilla avec joie de tout pour suivre le Seigneur. Dès lors libérée, elle s'engagea dans l'arène de l'ascèse. Âgée d'à peine trente ans, l'amour de Dieu brûlait si fort en elle qu'elle se soumit à une discipline digne des plus rudes combattants du désert, sans s'accorder aucun accommodement, sous prétexte des habitudes délicates acquises depuis sa jeunesse. Elle portait toujours sur elle un cilice rugueux, et, après un entraînement progressif, elle passa toute sa vie dans le jeûne complet cinq jours par semaine, ne prenant une sobre réfection que le samedi et le dimanche. Ce n'est que sur les instances de sa mère, Albine, qui l'accompagnait partout, qu'elle consentit à prendre un peu d'huile les trois jours qui suivent la fête de Pâques. Elle trouvait tous ses délices dans la méditation de l'Ecriture, des vies des Saints et des oeuvres des Pères de l'Eglise, qu'elle lisait en latin et en grec. Après un bref repos de deux heures, elle veillait en prière toutes les nuits et enseignait aux vierges qui l'avaient suivie à joindre la veille et l'attente ardente de l'Epoux à la chasteté. Malgré son désir croissant de ne vivre que pour Dieu et de consacrer tout son temps à la prière sans distraction, elle ne pouvait se retirer à cause de ses nombreuses obligations, aussi trouva-t-elle la solution en consacrant ses journées à la charité et à la direction de ses disciples, et en réservant ses nuits pour Dieu seul, en s'enfermant dans une sorte de coffre, où elle ne pouvait même pas s'allonger. Aux assauts du démon de la vaine gloire, elle répliquait avec une méprisante ironie et cultivait envers tous un tel esprit de douceur qu'à la veille de sa mort elle pouvait dire qu'elle ne s'était jamais endormie avec une pensée de rancune.
Au bout de sept ans en Afrique, elle partit pour un pèlerinage en Terre Sainte avec sa mère et son époux, devenu son frère spirituel, en s'arrêtant à Alexandrie pour rendre visite à Saint Cyrille. A Jérusalem, elle passait toutes ses journées dans la basilique de la Résurrection et, quand on fermait les portes au coucher du soleil, elle se rendait au Golgotha pour y passer la nuit. Après un nouveau voyage en Egypte, auprès des Saints solitaires des déserts de Nitrie, elle s'installa sur le Mont des Oliviers dans une petite cellule en planches, que sa mère avait faite construire en son absence. Elle y demeura pendant quatorze ans (417-431). Chaque Carême, de la Théophanie à Pâques, elle s'y enfermait strictement, revêtue d'un cilice et couchant sur la cendre, et n'y recevait que sa mère, Pinien et sa jeune cousine Paule, fille de Sainte Paule. Cette austère réclusion ne l'empêchait pas pour autant de porter son attention sur la vie de l'Eglise.
Elle nourrissait un zèle ardent pour la Foi Orthodoxe et s'opposa avec force aux partisans de Pélage qui donnait une trop grande part au libre arbitre de l'homme, en suivant l'enseignement de Saint Jérôme, rencontré à Béthléem, et de Saint Augustin qui lui portait une grande admiration et lui avait dédié son ouvrage Sur la Grâce du Christ et le péché originel (418).
A la mort de sa mère, en 431, Mélanie sortit de sa réclusion et fonda sur le Mont des oliviers un monastère suivant les usages liturgiques de Rome, qui fut bientôt peuplé de quatre-vingt-dix vierges, grâce à la diligence de Pinien. Dans son extrême humilité, la Sainte refusa d'en assurer la direction ; elle nomma une autre supérieure et se contenta de leur délivrer un enseignement spirituel, tant par ses paroles que par l'exemple de sa conduite. Comme le Seigneur, elle se faisait la servante de toutes, venait soulager en secret les soeurs malades et prenait sur elle les besognes les plus répugnantes. Elle leur enseignait à sanctifier leur âme et leur corps par la sainte virginité, leur recommandait sans relâche d'user de la sainte violence recommandée par le Seigneur (Mat. 11, 12) pour renoncer à leur volonté propre et fonder le temple spirituel des vertus sur l'obéissance. En prenant des exemples dans la vie des Pères, elle les exhortait à la persévérance dans le combat spirituel, à la vigilance contre les pièges du malin, au zèle et à la concentration de l'intelligence dans la prière nocturne, et surtout à la charité. « Toutes vertus et toutes ascèses sont vaines sans la charité, disait-elle. Le diable peut aisément imiter toutes nos vertus, il est vaincu seulement par l'humilité, et la charité ». Son frère spirituel Pinien mourut à son tour en 432. Elle le fit ensevelir avec Albine, près de la grotte où le Christ avait prédit à ses disciples la ruine de Jérusalem, et demeura là pendant quatre ans, dans une cellule sans ouverture, complètement isolée du monde; puis elle chargea son disciple et biographe, le Prêtre Gérontios, d'y installer un monastère d'hommes, dont elle assura aussi la direction spirituelle - cas exceptionnel dans l'histoire de l'Eglise. Vers la fin de 436, elle se rendit à Constantinople à la demande de son oncle, le puissant Volusien, qui était resté attardé dans le paganisme. En arrivant, elle le trouva gravement malade et réussit, avec l'aide du Saint Patriarche Proclus, à le décider de recevoir le Saint Baptême avant de mourir. Ayant trouvé la capitale agitée par les querelles concernant la doctrine hérétique de Nestorius, elle fit campagne pour le Dogme Orthodoxe avant de regagner en hâte son Monastère du Mont des Oliviers. L'année suivante, l'impératrice Eudocie entreprit un pèlerinage en Terre Sainte sur les recommandations de Sainte Mélanie, avec qui elle avait sympathisé à Constantinople et qu'elle considérait comme sa mère spirituelle. Outre son enseignement et le spectacle édifiant de sa communauté, la souveraine lui demanda ses conseils avisés pour les nombreuses fondations et riches donations qu'elle fit alors aux Eglises et aux Monastères.
Dieu accordait sans retard à sa servante les guérisons qu'elle lui demandait; mais, avertie des pièges du démon de la vaine gloire, Mélanie donnait toujours à ceux qui venaient demander son intercession soit de l'huile tirée des veilleuses placées au-dessus des tombeaux des Martyrs, soit quelque objet ayant appartenu à un saint personnage, de sorte qu'on ne crût pas que la guérison était due à sa propre vertu.
Après avoir menée une telle course, constamment tendue en avant à la poursuite de l'Epoux céleste, elle n'avait plus pour désir que d'être déliée de cette vie pour être avec le Christ (Phil. 1, 23). Tombée malade en fêtant la Nativité à Bethléem (439), elle rassembla ses religieuses dès son retour à Jérusalem pour leur délivrer son testament spirituel. Elle les assura qu'elle serait toujours invisiblement présente parmi elles, à condition qu'elles restent fidèles à ses prescriptions et qu'elles gardent avec crainte de Dieu leurs lampes allumées, telles des vierges sages (Mat. 25, 1-13), dans l'attente de la venue du Seigneur. Au bout de six jours de maladie, elle fit ses dernières recommandations aux moines et désigna Gérontios comme supérieur et père spirituel des deux communautés, puis elle s'endormit doucement, avec une joie confiante, en prononçant ces paroles: « Comme il a plu au Seigneur, voilà ce qui est advenu ». Des moines venus des monastères, des déserts et de toutes les extrémités de la Palestine célébrèrent une vigile de toute la nuit et, au moment de l'ensevelir, au petit matin, les uns et les autres la recouvrirent de vêtements, ceintures, cuculles et de maints autres objets qu'ils avaient reçus en bénédiction de la part de saints personnages. Le monastère de Sainte Mélanie fut détruit en 614, lors de l'invasion perse, mais on vénère encore sa grotte au Mont des Oliviers.
 Saint Jérôme quitta la vie mondaine et intellectuelle de la capitale pour se faire moine et devenir l'ardent avocat de la vie ascétique. C'est à lui que l'on doit la biographie de plusieurs de ces saintes femmes.
 Ces saintes romaines ne sont pas commémorées par les synaxaires byzantins. Sainte Asella († 385) est célébrée le 6 décembre en Occident, Sainte Fabiola († 399), le 27 décembre, Sainte Paule et sa fille Eustochium, le 26 janvier, sainte Marcelle († 410) le 31 janvier, Sainte Mélanie l'Ancienne n'est mentionnée ni par les martyrologes ni par les synaxaires, peut être à cause de sa mésentente finale avec Saint Jérôme, mais elle est cependant fort louée par Pallade (Histoire Lausiaque, chap. 46 et 54).
Фрагмент икона «Св. Князь Михаил и Св. прп. Мелания».
MÉLANIE LA JEUNE sainte (383-439)
Valeria Melania appartenait à une très grande famille romaine. On l'appelle Mélanie la Jeune pour la distinguer de sa grand mère, Mélanie l'Ancienne (350 env.-410). À quatorze ans, elle fut mariée à Valerius Pinianus et eut de lui deux enfants, qui moururent en bas âge ; les époux résolurent de quitter le monde et de vivre dans l'ascèse, mais l'intervention de l'impératrice Serena fut nécessaire pour leur permettre de liquider la plus grande partie de leur fabuleuse fortune. Quand Rome fut prise par les Barbares en 410, Mélanie et son mari se réfugièrent d'abord en Sicile, puis à Tagaste en Afrique du Nord. Les habitants d'Hippone voulurent que leur évêque, Augustin, ordonnât prêtre Pinianus, afin de s'assurer ses dons. Mécontents de ce projet, Pinianus et Mélanie partirent pour la Palestine, où ils se retirèrent à Jérusalem, partageant leur temps entre la prière, les œuvres charitables, l'étude de la Bible et des Pères. Mélanie y fonda un monastère, dont cependant elle ne voulut pas être supérieure. Son mari mourut vers 432.
En 436, elle se rendit à Constantinople pour revoir son oncle Volusien, qui préparait le mariage de l'empereur d'Occident Valentinien III avec Eudoxie, fille de l'empereur d'Orient. Mélanie décida Volusien à recevoir le baptême et lutta pour l'orthodoxie, attaquée par l'hérésie de Nestorius. Elle revint à Jérusalem et y mourut.
« MÉLANIE LA JEUNE sainte (383-439) », Encyclopædia
Universalis [en ligne], consulté le 31 décembre 2015. URL
SOURCE : http://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/melanie-la-jeune/
Мелания Римляныня Младшая, Вифлеемская, Палестинская, прп. Миниатюра Минология Василия II. Константинополь. 985 г. Ватиканская библиотека. Рим.
Saint Melania the Younger. Miniature from the Menologion of Basil II
Wealthy Roman patrician noble; granddaughter of Saint Melania the Elder. Married against her will to Valerius Pinianus (Saint Pinian) at age 13. After the death of their two children, both of whom died young, and to escape Visigoth invasion, the couple fled to Tagaste in North Africa in 410 where they had estates, and where they met Saint Augustine of Hippo. Though they stayed married, the two took vows of celibacy, freed their slaves, sold their lands and goods in Spain and Gaul, and gave the proceeds to the poor. They built two monasteries for Saint Augustine, then the couple moved to Jerusalem and entered a monastery and convent around 417. Friend of Saint Paulinus of Nola and Saint Jerome. Widowed in 432. Directed the convent on the Mount of Olives for several years.
Catholic Encyclopedia, by Charles Schlitz
Saints of the Day, by Katherine Rabenstein
“Saint Melania the Younger“. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 August 2020. Web. 31 December 2022. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-melania-the-younger/>
“Saint Pinian“. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 April 2015. Web. 31 December 2022. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-pinian/>
St. Melania the Younger
MELANIA the Elder was of a most noble Spanish family, though descended of a Roman pedigree, and a relation of St. Paulinus of Nola, second to no one in Aquitain and Spain in riches or nobility. Being married young, she was left a widow at twenty-three years of age. Upon the death of her husband she said to God: “Now, O Lord, I shall be at liberty to devote myself without distraction to thy service.” Having put her son Publicola into the hands of good tutors, she embarked with Rufinus for Egypt in 371: and after spending six months in visiting the monks of those parts, went into Palestine, but so much disguised, that the governor of Jerusalem cast her into gaol for visiting certain prisoners, till she made herself known to him, and then he treated her with the greatest respect. After some time she built a monastery at Jerusalem, wore a coarse habit, and had no other bed than a rough cloth spread on the floor, without any other cover than a sackcloth. Thus she lived in Palestine twenty-seven years, making prayer and the meditation of the holy scriptures her principal employment. Her son Publicola grew up, and becoming most accomplished in the necessary qualifications of mind and body, was married to Albina, by whom he had two children, a son and a daughter, this latter being our saint. She was married at thirteen years of age to Pinian, the son of Severus, who had been prefect of Rome. Her children both died young, and by her moving discourses and entreaties she gained his consent that they should bind themselves by mutual vows to serve God in perpetual chastity. The elder Melania, at this news, left the East, and returned to Rome, after having been thirty-seven years absent. She was met at Naples by a train of the most illustrious personages of the nobility of Rome, who attended her from thence glittering in rich attire, and sumptuous equipages. The humble Melania travelled at their head, meanly mounted on horseback, and clothed with coarse and threadbare garments. During her stay in Rome it was her first care to caution Pinian and her granddaughter against the heresies of that age. She staid in the West four years, during which interval she took a journey into Africa. There she received news of the death of her son Publicola. At her return to Rome she advised Pinian and our saint to give what they possessed to the poor, and to choose some remote retirement. This council they readily embraced, and were imitated by Albina. Avita, a niece of Melania, after converting her husband from the errors of idolatry, induced him to join her in a vow of perpetual continency. Their son Asterius, and their daughter Eunomia, followed the same example. All these fervent and illustrious persons went together to pay a visit to St. Paulinus at Nola. So many wonderful conversions astonished not only Rome, but all Christendom. The elder Melania had no sooner completed this great work, but she hastened back to her dear solitude. The tumult of Rome made that great city seem to her a place of exile, and a true prison; nor was she able to bear the noise of the world, and the distraction of visits. Rufinus accompanied her as far as Sicily, where he died. Melania arrived at Jerusalem, distributed the residue of her money among the poor, and shut herself up in a monastery. But exchanged this mortal life for a better, forty days after, in the year 410, being about sixty-eight years old. Melania the Elder seemed some time too warmly engaged with Rufinus in the defence of Origen. The commendations which St. Austin, St. Paulinus, and others bestow on her, bear evidence to her orthodoxy and her edifying virtue, though her name has never been placed among the saints, unless she be meant on the 8th of June in the manuscript calendar mentioned by Chiffletius, as Papebroke and Joseph Assemmani 1 take notice.
Albina, Melania the Younger, and Pinian first made over their estates in Spain and Gaul, reserving those which they possessed in Italy, Sicily, and Africa. They made free eight thousand of their slaves, and those who would not accept of their freedom, they gave to the brother of Melania. Their most precious furniture they bestowed on churches and altars. Their first retreat was in retired country places in Campania and Sicily, and their time they spent in prayer, reading, and visiting the poor and the sick, in order to comfort and relieve them. For this end they also sold their estates in Italy, and passed into Africa, where they made some stay, first at Carthage, and afterwards at Tagasté, under the direction of St. Alypius, who was at that time bishop of this city. In a journey they made to Hippo, to see St. Austin, the people there seized Pinian, demanding that St. Austin would ordain him priest; but he escaped out of their hands, by promising that if he ever took holy orders, it should be to serve their church. The poverty and austerity in which they lived seven years at Tagasté appeared extreme. Melania by degrees arrived at such a habit of long fasting, as often to eat only once a week, and to take nothing but bread and water, except that on solemn occasions to her bread she added a little oil. Their occupation was to read and copy good books; Pinian also tilled his garden. In 417 they left Africa and went to Jerusalem, where they continued the same manner of life. St. Melania buried her mother Albina in 433, and her husband Pinian two years after. She survived him four years, shutting herself up in a monastery of nuns, which she built and governed. Her cell was her paradise; yet she left it to go to Constantinople, to convert her uncle Volusian, who was an idolater, and she had the comfort to see him baptized, and die full of hope and holy joy. After she had closed his eyes, she made haste back to Jerusalem. She went to Bethlehem to pass Christmas-day at the holy crib, and came back the day following; and found herself seized with her last sickness, which she discovered to those about her. A great number of holy monks and others visited her, whom she exhorted, and when she saw them weep, tenderly comforted. She departed to our Lord in the year 439, the fifty-seventh of her age, on a Sunday, which was the 31st of December, on which day her name stands in the Roman Martyrology. See Palladius in Lausiac, and several letters of St. Paulinus, St. Jerom, St. Austin, &c. Her Greek Acts, extant in Metaphrastes, are translated in Lipomannus, t. 5. Other Greek acts of the same age are mentioned and commended by Allatius. See Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. t. 6, p. 548, and Fontanini, Hist. Eccl. Aquil. l. 4.
Men often say, we are not obliged to do so much for salvation; but the example of the saints ought to convince us, that we are bound at least by extraordinary watchfulness and fervour to surpass the multitude, and not go with the world. In the general torrent of example every one flatters himself, and relies upon the crowd which goes the same way. Men follow one another to run upon destruction: they are seduced, and they seduce. We perhaps rely sometimes on the example of those who follow ours. Does not Christ assure us that the way to life is narrow, and trodden by few? If we are content to follow the crowd, we condemn ourselves by taking the broad way. The saints by fearing to fall into it, seemed to set no bounds to their fervour.
Note 1. See Jos. Assem. in Calend. p. 522. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
Melania the Younger, Widow, and Pinian (RM)
Born in Rome, Italy, c. 383; died in Jerusalem, December 31, 438 (or 439). Melania was the product of several pious generations of the patrician Roman family of the Valerii. Her grandmother, Saint Antonia Melania the Elder, widow of Valerius Maximus, was one of the first Roman matrons to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When Melania the Elder moved to Egypt in 372 and then to Palestine to become a nun, she left behind her in Rome her six-year-old son Valerius Publicola, who fathered today's saint and was a Roman senator.
Antonia Melania the Younger began her life in the splendor of the Valerian palace. She inherited a fantastic fortune--estates in what are now eight modern countries. She controlled whole populations. Yet Melania chose asceticism, which, according to Saint Jerome was inherited from her mother. Her life made contact with several other saints, Saint Paulinus of Nola, Augustine of Hippo, and Jerome--all of whom had a very high opinion of her and her husband.
At age 13, Melania married her 17-year-old cousin Saint Valerius Pinianus against her will. She suggested that they live together in celibacy, in exchange for which he could have her entire fortune. He insisted that they have two sons first. They had a daughter they vowed to virginity, then a son. Both of whom died soon after birth. Melania seemed to be dying, too, and made her recovery contingent upon a life of abstinence. Pinianus agreed and she recovered.
Their religious devotion and austere lifestyle provoked opposition from other family members. But after her father's death, her widowed mother, Albina, the Christian daughter of a pagan priest, was also won over. The couple then lived in simplicity as far as was possible. They struggled to give away all their property--her annual income was the equivalent of about US$20 million today. When they tried to sell their property for the good of the poor and the Church, their family appealed to Emperor Honorius, who sided with Melania. She became one of the greatest religious philanthropists of all time: She endowed monasteries in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine; helped churches and monasteries in Europe; aided the poor, sick, captives, and pilgrims.
Not only did they provide charity out of their surplus, Melania and Pinianus gave of themselves. They freed their 8,000 slaves in two years, but the slaves refused to be freed, so they transferred themselves to Pinianus's brother. By the time Melania was 20, Pinianus, Albina, and Melania left Rome and turned their country estate into a religious center. Their palace became a home for innumerable sick, prisoners, and exiles whom the couple personally sought out.
When the Visigoths invaded Rome in 408, Pinianus and Melania moved to Messina, Sicily. In 410, Rome was taken and their palace burned. Finding Sicily in danger, they decided to cross the Mediterranean to Carthage with the aged priest Rufinus. They were shipwrecked on the island of Lipari, which Melania ransomed from pirates. Finally, they moved to their estate in Tagaste, Numidia, in northern Africa. The saintliness of the couple quickly became apparent to the denizens. The citizens of nearby Hippo demanded that Saint Augustine ordain Pinianus at once. Augustine compromised by saying that he should stay in Hippo for a time as a layman. The couple also established a monastery and a convent, where she lived in great austerity.
By 417, most of their estates were sold and the couple was truly poor. Melania, Pinianus, and Albina made a pilgrimage to Palestine, then visited the desert monks in Egypt, and finally settled in Jerusalem, where Melania's grandmother Antonia Melania had been living as a nun. Melania's cousin, Saint Paula, introduced her to the group of Roman women in Bethlehem presided over by Saint Jerome, whose friend she became.
After her mother Albina's death in 431, Melania established herself as a recluse. She founded a monastery and sent her husband to seek out those with vocations. He succeeded, then died in 432, and was buried on Mount Olivet near her mother. Melania lived in a room near his tomb for four years until she attracted numerous disciples. Then she founded and directed a convent to care for the Church of the Ascension and sing the Divine Office continually for her mother and husband. She shared in their life of prayer and good works, and occupied herself with copying books.
Her uncle Volusianus wrote to her insinuating that she should consider marriage to Emperor Valentinian III. She went to Constantinople, ingratiated herself with the imperial family, then undertook a brisk campaign against the Nestorian heresy, and fell ill. She converted her uncle and assisted him to a holy death on January 6, 437.
Melania went to Bethlehem for her last Christmas and spent it with Saint Paula. She returned to her convent for the feast of Saint Stephen and died five days later, with Saint Paula, the monks, nuns, and the bishop present. As she was dying Paula began crying and Melania consoled her.
Melania's biography was written by her chaplain, Gerontius. Although Melania has been venerated in the Eastern Church for centuries, she has had no cultus in the West. Pope Pius X, however, approved the observance of her feast in 1908 for the Somaschi, an observance followed by the Latin Catholics of Constantinople and Jerusalem (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Martindale).
In art, Melania is generally shown praying in a cave, a skull and vegetables near her (Roeder).
Святая Мелания Римляныня, фреска из Монастыря Св.Стефана в Метеорах.
CHAPTER LXI: MELANIA THE YOUNGER 1
[I] SINCE I promised above to tell about the (grand) daughter of Melania, I am constrained to pay the debt, for it is not just that men should disdain her youthfulness in respect of the flesh and leave on one side with no pillar to commemorate it such great virtue, virtue which, frankly, far surpasses that of old and zealous women. Her parents by using compulsion made her marry a man of the highest rank in Rome. Her conscience was always being pricked by the tales she heard about her grandmother, and (at last) she was so goaded that she felt unable to perform her marriage duty.  For, two male children having been born to her and both having died, she came to have such great hatred of marriage as to say to her husband Pinianus, son of Severus the exprefect: " If you choose to practice asceticism with me according to the fashion of chastity, then I recognize you as master and lord of my life. But if this appears grievous to you, being still a young man, take all my belongings and set my body free, that I may fulfil my desire toward God and become heir of the zeal of my grandmother, whose name I also bear.  For if God had wished us to have children, He would not have taken away my children untimely." After they had, struggled under the yoke a long while, at last God had pity on the young man and planted in him a zeal for renunciation, so that the word of Scripture was fulfilled in their case: " How knowest thou, O woman, that thou shalt save thy husband?'' (I Cor. 7:16) So having been married at thirteen and having lived with her husband seven years, in the twentieth year she renounced the world. And first she gave her silk dresses to the altars: this the holy Olympias has also done.  Then she cut up her other silks and made them into different church ornaments. And having entrusted her silver and gold to a certain Paul, a priest, a monk of Dalmatia, she sent them across the sea to the East, 10,000 pieces of money to Egypt and the Thebaid, 10,000 pieces to Antioch and its neighborhood, 15,000 to Palestine, 10,000 to the churches in the islands and the places of exile, while she herself distributed to the churches in the West in the same way.  All this and four times as much she snatched, if God will allow the expression, " out of the mouth of the lion," (II Tim. 4:17) Alaric by her faith. And she freed 8000 slaves who wished freedom, for the rest did not wish it, but preferred to be slaves to her brother; and she allowed him to take them all for three pieces of money. But having sold her possessions in the Spains, Aquitania, Tarragonia and the Gauls, she reserved for herself only those in Sicily and Campania and Africa and appropriated their income for the support of monasteries.  Such was her wise conduct with regard to the burden of riches. And her asceticism was as follows. She ate every other dayto begin with after a five days' intervaland assigned to herself a part in the daily work of her own slavewomen, whom also she made her fellow ascetics.
She had with her also her mother Albina, who lived a similar ascetic life and distributed her riches for her part privately. Now these ladies are dwelling on their properties, now in Sicily and now in Campania, with fifteen eunuchs (apparently to be interpreted literally; but perhaps metaphorically in allusion to Mt. 19) and sixty virgins, both free and slaved.
 Similarly also Pinianus her husband lives with thirty monks, reading and busying himself with the garden and solemn conferences. But in no small way did they honor us when we, a numerous party, went to Rome because of the blessed bishop John; they refreshed us both with hospitality and lavish equipment for the journey, thus winning for themselves with great joy the fruit of eternal life by their Godgiven works springing from a noble mode of life.
Palladius: The Lausiac History
Ícone de Melânia, a Jovem
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
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.
Schlitz, Carl. "St. Melania (the Younger)." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 8 Jun. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10154a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael C. Tinkler.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Copyright © 2021 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Roman Martyrology speaks of the holy Pope, Saint Sylvester, as follows: “At Rome, the birth-day of the holy Pope, Sylvester, who baptized the Emperor, Constantine the Great, confirmed the general Council of Nice, and who, after having accomplished many other holy works, ended his life peacefully.
Saint Sylvester was a Roman, born of Christian parents, and carefully instructed in religion and all necessary knowledge by the priest, Carinus. To the strangers who came to Rome to perform their devotions, he showed all kindness. Tarquinius, the prefect, thought that Sylvester had gained much money in this manner, and calling him into his presence, menaced him with the most cruel tortures, in case he refused to bring him all he had. Sylvester looked at him and said: “This night you will die; how can you, therefore, fulfill your menaces?” And, in truth, Tarquinius was suffocated that night from swallowing a fish-bone; hence Sylvester was released from the prison into which he was cast. After the death of Pope Melchiades, he was unanimously elected to be the head of the Church. This was in the reign of Constantine, who already at that time greatly favored the Christians; but as he was engaged in warfare away from Rome, the pagan officers began again to persecute the faithful. Sylvester, advised by the clergy at Rome, left the city and went to Mount Soracte, where he dwelt in a cave to which all Christians had ad- mittance. There the holy Father offered his tears to heaven, with humble prayers, that the Almighty, for the welfare of Christendom, would end the persecution. His prayer was heard. Constantine the Emperor, became leprous over his whole body, and his physicians and the idolatrous priests advised him to bathe in the blood of infant children. On the following night, in his sleep, there appeared to him two venerable old men, who told him to call the high-priest of the Christians, from Mount Soracte, who would prescribe for him a much more wholesome bath. Sylvester was called, and, being informed of the vision, he showed the Emperor the pictures of the two holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, in which Constantine immediately recognized the two venerable men whom he had seen in his sleep. As the holy Pope informed him farther, that the wholesome bath, of which the Apostles had spoken, was no other than the bath of regeneration, or holy Baptism, the Emperor showed himself ready to receive it, and having been sufficiently instructed in the faith, he was baptized to the great joy of the Pope and all the faithful. By the advice of the Saint, the Emperor erected many magnificent* churches, and ornamented them splendidly, and gave” permission to the Christians to build temples to the Lord wherever they desired. In the reign of this Pope, the first General Council was held at Nice, in which the doctrine of Arius was anathematised. The Papal nuncio presided over it, and the Emperor, who liberally paid the travelling expenses of all poor bishops, was present, not as a superior, but only as a protector. He sat the last in rank, and upon a low chair. The esteem in which he held the clergy may be learned from a memorable speech he made .there, in which he said: “If I should surprise a priest in an actual sin, I would cover it with my purple, and endeavor to conceal it, from esteem of the priesthood.” The decrees of the Council were confirmed by the Pope at Rome, and received by all the faithful. Many other things done by Saint Sylvester for the welfare of the Church, are related by the historians of his life. He reigned over the Church 21 years and some months, and died a peaceful and happy death, rejoicing that he was going to the Lord.
We have a bright example of many virtues, especially of chastity, disregard of all things temporal, zeal to labor for the honor of God, and charity to the poor, in Saint Melania, called the Younger, to distinguish her from another Melania, who is surnamed the Elder.
Melania, the Younger, was born at Rome, where her parents not only belonged to the first nobility, but were also considered the richest in the city., She admired virginal chastity from her early youth, and desired to remain a virgin; but her parents forced her to marry Pinian, a noble and wealthy youth. She became the mother of two children, the first of whom lived scarcely a year, and the second died soon after it had been baptized. This taught Pinian the vanity of all earthly happiness; and although he had only reached his 24th year, and Melania was but 20, he agreed with her to live in future in perpetual continence, and to employ the large fortune which their children would have inherited, for the honor of God, for the maintenance of the clergy, for the consolation of the poor and for other good works. As soon as they had made this, resolution, they chose a dwelling, out of the city, Upon one of their estates, and served God and their neighbor unostentatiously. They sold the estates which they possessed in Rome and other places in Italy, and spent the money to relieve the poor, to build and endow churches and convents, and to maintain priests and religious. After this, they sailed to Sicily and Africa, where they also possessed valuable estates, and after selling them, they intended to continue their charitable and religious undertakings. On one island where they landed, they ransomed many Christian captives from slavery to the infidels. At Tagaste, where Saint Alipinus, a friend of Saint Augustine, was bishop, they built two convents, one for women, and one for men. Into one Pinian went, and into the other, Melania. Seven years they lived there in the exercises of the most noble virtues. Melania fasted daily until evening, when she partook only of bread and water, or of some herbs seasoned with a little oil. Afterwards she ate only once every two days, then every three days, until finally once every week. All admired so extraordinary a severity, in which nobody was able to follow her. She devoted the whole night to prayer and contemplation, except two hours which she gave to sleep, lying on a straw mattrass on the floor. During the day, she also employed many hours in prayer, and the rest in work, which consisted of sewing and mending clothes for the poor, in visiting the sick and needy, in assisting the suffering, and in copying devout books for the welfare of men. After seven years, she had a great desire to go to Jerusalem and visit the holy places. Hence, she travelled with Pinian, her spouse, and Albina, her mother, from Tagaste to Egypt, and arrived in Alexandria, where she was detained by sickness. On her recovery, the holy pilgrims proceeded to Jerusalem. The devotion with which Melania visited the holy places can hardly be told. Every evening she went to the sepulchre of Christ, and remained there until morning. Her love for the Holy Land became such that she resolved to remain there. Hence, she had a little cottage built on Mount Olivet, where she lived for fourteen years a most holy and religious life. Her spouse did the same in a monastery at Jerusalem. The reputation of the holiness of Melania drew many widows and virgins to her, who desired to live under her guidance. To this end, she built a convent and a church at Jerusalem, and received all those who came to her. She would never take upon herself the office of Superior, but waited on the others as though she were a most lowly servant; but she untiringly instructed them, both by word and work, how to serve the Lord. The death of her pious mother, Albina, and of her spouse, Pinian, she bore with perfect submission to the divine will, and thinking that she would soon follow them, she redoubled her zeal in doing good. While all her thoughts were directed to her great journey into Eternity, she was induced to take another earthly journey. Volusian, her cousin, had been sent from Rome to the court of Constantinople, and becoming very sick there, desired to see Melania, and had written to her to that effect. Melania undertook the wearisome voyage, desiring to convert Volusian, who was still a heathen and addicted to many vices. No sooner, therefore, had she arrived at Constantinople than she hastened to her sick cousin. Seeing her emaciated by fasting and the austerity of her life, he cried, full of surprise: “O dear Melania! how different you look from what you were! How your figure, your whole appearance has changed!” “Learn from it, my dear cousin,” said Melania, “what I think of the future life and eternal happiness; for I surely would not have esteemed so lightly all temporal honor, would not have divested myself of all earthly riches, nor have treated my body so severely, had I not surely believed that I should come into the possession of greater honors, riches and joys.” These words made a deep impression upon Volusian, and as Melania earnestly exhorted him to become a Christian and do penance, he received holy baptism, and soon after died a peaceful death. Melania, happy at this, was not satisfied with having opened heaven to only one soul. At that period, there were in Constantinople many heretics, who called themselves Nestorians. With these Melania disputed daily for several hours, as she not only spoke the Greek language, but was also well instructed in the Christian faith. Many of the heretics were brought back by her into the pale of the true Church. She gave also many wholesome admonitions to the Emperor Theodosius and his Empress Eudoxia, who had called her to their court After this, she returned to the convent at Jerusalem, where God soon revealed to her that her end was approaching, with the comforting assurance that He would reward her with eternal goods, for the temporal goods she had employed in His service. The joy that filled Melania’s heart at this revelation, the reader may easily imagine. But she left nothing undone to prepare herself worthily for her last hour. She once again visited the holy places with great devotion, and passed the Christmas in the stable at Bethlehem, where our Lord had been born. Returning to the convent, she became sick, desired to receive the holy Sacraments, and after they had been administered to her, she gave her last instructions to her religious. She was- visited by many who lamented her departure. She herself, however, said, with great fortitude: “The Lord’s will be done!” After these words, she gave her soul, ornamented with so many extraordinary virtues, into the hands of her Creator, on the last day of December, in the year 438, according to Baronius and several others. Her tomb was glorified with many miracles, and her holy life became known all over the Christian world.
• Both Saint Sylvester and Saint Melania passed their whole lives in the service of the Lord. They were careful to avoid sin; unwearied in the practice of good works; patient in persecutions, trials and crosses. How greatly this must have consoled them in their last hour! How happy both must now be in heaven!
The feast day for these saints ends the year. If it also proved the end of your life, would you be as happy as these two Saints? Would you have well-founded hopes to participate in the joys of heaven? Consider how you have passed this year, and all the preceding ones, and you will be enabled to answer the foregoing question. You have had, in this year, 12 months, or 52 weeks, which are 365 days or 8760 hours! How have you passed these? Can you say truthfully, that you have employed the 20th part of them to the end for which they were given you by the Almighty? How have you employed so many opportunities to do good, which you had? Have you been careful in avoiding sin? Have you practised good works? Have you borne, with Christian patience, all that God has laid upon you? Have you, in one word, been diligent and unwearied in the service of God and in working out your, salvation? If you were able to answer all these questions affirmatively, I could assure you that you have well-founded hopes of eternal salvation, should you die today; but on the contrary, anxiety and fear must befall you, if you are obliged to say, with the wicked man: “I have had empty months.” (Job 7) Empty in good works, empty in merits, but full of indolence, full of sin, full of vice, or, as the sinner said on his death-bed: “But now I remember the evils that I did.” (1st Maccabees 6) I have done much evil, but little good, and the little good I have done, was done without earnestness, without zeal. Oh! such confessions can give to a dying person no consolation, no satisfaction, but only extreme anxiety, and may even bring him to despair. To have served the Lord zealousalv to have labored earnestly for the salvation of our soul, to have avoided sin, or sincerely repented of it when committed; and to have constantly practised good works, this will give consolation and satisfaction to us in our dying hour, and hope to enter heaven. Endeavor so to conduct yourself during the following year, that you may have this consolation and hope, when you are dying.
• Saint Sylvester and Saint Melania received many special graces from heaven, and used them to the hon- or of God, the salvation of their own souls, and that of others. Can you complain that you have not received, above thousands of others, especial graces from God? Certainly not. But God can complain of you that you have not employed them to your salvation. Let your thoughts go back only over this one year which ends today. Can you count the benefits which God has bestowed on your soul and body, in preference to many thousands, although you have not deserved them? And if He had done nothing but preserved your life until this hour, that you might not die in your sins; if He had given you nothing but so much time for penance and so many opportunities to work out your salvation, He would have shown Himself much more merciful and gracious towards you than towards thousands of others, whom He has called, in this year, laden with sin, into the other world. How have you conducted yourself towards God? What use have you made of His graces and mercies? How have you manifested your thankfulness? Is it possible that you can think of it without fear, without shame? Ah! your constant indolence in the service of the Almighty, and more than that, the many and not small sins you have committed, are no signs of gratefulness, but of great wickedness.
Employ at least this day in humble gratitude for the many benefits which you have received during the year, and in deep contrition for your ingratitude and wickedness. Give due thanks to the Almighty for all His graces and benefits. Repent, with your whole heart, and, if possible, with tears of blood, of your many sins. As thanksgiving for so many graces, as atonement for so many sins, offer to the Lord all that which has been done by others to His honor during the year, but above all offer Him a contrite and humble heart, which, on this day, resolves to serve Him in future with zeal and constancy. Recite, in thanksgiving, the Ambrosian hymn of praise: “We praise thee, O God, etc.,” and in atonement for your sins, the 50th psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy, etc.”
Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Sylvester, Pope, and Saint Melania, the Younger”. , 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 June 2018. Web. 31 December 2022. <https://catholicsaints.info/weningers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-sylvester-pope-and-saint-melania-the-younger/>
Melania the Younger (c. 385–439)
Roman ascetic who was an important patron of the early Christian Church. Born around 385; died in 439 ce; daughter of Valerius Publicola (son of Melania the Elder) and Albina; married Valerius Pinianus (son of Valerius Severus, the Roman prefect), around 399.
The daughter of Valerius Publicola (the son of Melania the Elder ) and Albina , Melania the Younger was born around 385. Her parents were from extremely wealthy and well-connected Roman families of Senatorial rank; for example, her maternal grandfather, Ceionius Rufius Albinus, served as the prefect of Rome, a post reserved for the most elite, between 389 and 391 ce. On her father's side, Melania's family had been Christian for at least a couple of generations before her birth—a testimony to the growing impact of Christianity on Rome's ruling class in the mid-4th century. Her maternal ancestors, however, had been both important members of the pagan establishment and slower to embrace Christianity; her great-grandmother Caecina Lolliana was a priestess of Isis, and her great-uncle Publilius Ceionius Caecina Albinus was a pontifex. In fact, Melania's maternal grandfather was probably pagan, as is suggested by the fact that his son (Melania's uncle), Rufius Antonius Agrypnius Volusianus, converted to Christianity, largely because of Melania's advocacy, only shortly before his death. If Melania the Younger's maternal grandfather remained a pagan throughout his life, he nevertheless was tolerant of Christianity, as is intimated by the following: he (perhaps) took a Christian wife; he seems to have corresponded with St. Ambrose of Milan; he clearly married his daughter Albina to a Christian; he allowed her to convert to Christianity if she had not already been raised in the faith by a Christian mother; and he did nothing to interfere with the Christian upbringing of Melania the Younger. Rome in the mid-4th century was a fairly tolerant place where a Christian and a pagan could rub elbows and even marry without necessarily adopting the other's religion. (This tolerance was lost in subsequent generations as the Church, encouraged by Christian emperors, eradicated the last vestiges of pagan Rome.) Melania the Younger may have had a brother, but if so, he died without issue and probably young.
When she was 14, Melania the Younger wed a distant relative, the 17-year-old Christian Valerius Pinianus (a son of Valerius Severus, the Roman prefect of 382). This union reunited two threads of an ancient house, in order to foster political influence and consolidate the immense economic resources which each side of the family individually possessed. The marriage does not seem to have pleased Melania the Younger, whose ascetic religious inclination had already been incited by the example of her grandmother Melania the Elder. Desiring a life of ascetic chastity but pressured by her family to generate heirs who could maintain the family's station and wealth, Melania the Younger reluctantly acceded to her father's wishes. Her marriage resulted in two pregnancies: the first producing a daughter and the second a stillborn son—a birth which almost killed Melania. Not long after this heartbreak, Melania the Younger's daughter, not yet two, also died. The shock of the double deaths convinced both Melania and her husband Pinian that her original wish to eschew intimate relations was also God's will. As a result, although they continued to live together, the couple renounced conjugal relations and began to experiment with an austere way of life which was the antithesis of their upbringing.
Accomplishing the latter was not an easy task, for the couple possessed vast estates, great movable wealth, and huge numbers of slaves across three continents. These they began to sell off, beginning with their Italian and Spanish properties, in order to fund a number of Christian works. Melania the Younger's father, although himself a generous patron of Christian causes, stoutly opposed their decision to divest entirely their worldly goods, as well as their choice to remain childless—for he saw no shame in secular Christianity and did not relish the thought that he would never know grandchildren. Unable to make headway with his willful daughter, however, the dying Valerius Publicola at last made a virtue out of necessity and reconciled with Melania the Younger on her terms.
Also opposed to Melania's and Pinian's decision to disburse their wealth was Pinian's brother, Severus, who attempted legal action in order to maintain their family's control of the estate being so purposefully liquidated by the couple. Presumably, Severus' case revolved around the fact that neither Melania the Younger nor Pinian was 25 years old—the age of legal authority for such actions—when they began their wholesale sell-off around 405. Nonetheless, this attempt failed when Melania the Younger, exploiting the connections which came with her wealth and station, approached Honorius, the emperor of the Roman West, through Serena (Honorius' mother-in-law and the wife of Stilicho, who at the time was Honorius' most important general), probably in the year 408. Through Serena's successful advocacy, Honorius not only allowed Melania and Pinian to act as they saw fit, he even ordered bureaucrats dispersed throughout the empire to act as agents on behalf of their divestment.
Much, but not all, of Melania's and Pinian's estate in Italy and Spain was thereby converted to cash by 410, in which year a double disaster hurt both interests. First, Honorius executed Serena and Stilicho for political reasons (the game at the imperial court was played for high stakes), and second, the Visigoths invaded Italy and sacked Rome. Before both disasters occurred, however, Melania and Pinian, with her mother in tow (Melania was all the family Albina had after the death of her husband), had made their way to North Africa to hasten the sell-off of properties there. Thus, they escaped both the fallout of the emperor's anger aimed at their political friends, and the ravages of the Visigoths, although they did lose their unsold Italian properties as a result of the appearance of the barbarians.
In North Africa, the trio established themselves on land they owned near Thagaste, the small hometown of St. Augustine, where they grew close to that great bishop's brother, Alypius. From this location, they oversaw the conversion of most of their African estates into cash which they used both to adorn the church of Thagaste and to distribute to the needy through local monasteries and convents. Concerning the latter, so much money was spent so quickly to so little lasting effect that Augustine, Alypius, and Aurelius, bishop of Carthage, advised the well-intentioned threesome to give up on trying to feed all of the poor and to concentrate on investing in the spiritual future. Melania, Pinian and Albina heeded this advice and endowed both a monastery and a convent, their first such foundations. About this time, an episode which had the potential of rupturing the friendship between Augustine, Melania and Pinian occurred, in which the people of Hippo (where Augustine was bishop) attempted to force ordination upon Pinian so that he could become their priest. This was deftly avoided by Pinian, who rather sought the life of a recluse, but local feelings were bruised and he had to swear that he would not take orders elsewhere.
Melania the Younger, Pinian and Albina remained in North Africa for about seven years, during which time they embraced more and more isolated asceticism: their clothes became little more than rags, their fasts became longer and more frequent, and all comforts were purposefully shunned (they lived in barren monastic cells and even had their beds constructed so as to make sleeping a torture). Throughout all of this, they spent most of their time in prayer, studying scripture, and working; in Melania the Younger's case, this frequently meant copying books. When they did strike out into the larger world, it was to advise the less driven to avoid heresy at all costs and to embrace a life of chastity (even going so far as to bribe men and women to remain chaste). The issue of heresy was a personal one to Melania the Younger, for her famous grandmother Melania the Elder had had her reputation tainted through her association with the increasingly discredited theology of Origen. Although Melania the Younger stayed clear of that particular pitfall, the world of the early 5th century was fraught with theological dangers, and reputations could be permanently lost if one fell in with the wrong theological sort.
However real their desire to withdraw from the world might have been, Melania and Pinian found their fame begin to spread, increasingly bringing the outside world to their doors. Perhaps motivated by a desire to cut back on the attention that ascetic piety drew at that time, and perhaps also influenced by the erosion of North African social stability in the wake of Rome's continuing collapse before the barbarian invasions, Melania the Younger, Pinian and Albina left Thagaste (417) to journey to the Holy Land. The traveled by way of Alexandria and Egypt (in the footsteps of Melania the Elder), where they met many of the most famous priests and bishops (like Cyril) of the day, as well as many of the charismatic Christian hermits (like Nestoros) who were exerting so much influence over the contemporary practice of the Christian faith. Their stay in Egypt obviously left an indelible impression on the pilgrims, because even though they continued on to Jerusalem to establish their permanent residence there, they nevertheless took a subsequent opportunity to return to Egypt so as to press their largesse upon the reluctant holy women and men of that land.
In Jerusalem, the threesome took up their abodes in tiny cells constructed on the Mount of Olives, close to, but definitely distinct from, the religious community which a generation before had been founded by Melania the Elder. It seems that Melania the Younger wanted it known that her theology was not that of her grandmother, a notion that was further driven home by her friendly visits to Jerome, her grandmother's theological rival. On the Mount of Olives, both Albina (c. 430) and Pinian (c. 431) died, losses which left their mark on Melania the Younger. Her mother's death caused her to abandon all social contact for a year, after which she founded a second convent (her first since North Africa), situated on the Mount of Olives. Although Melania the Younger declined to become this community's leader, she did write its rule and intervened to make life more palatable for its members when the austerity of their abbess tried even the most devout. After Pinian's death, Melania the Younger engaged in a second period of mourning, this time for four years, after which she established a second monastery, also on the Mount of Olives, in his memory. Interest-ingly, by the time of this, her final, foundation, Melania the Younger's money had run out, for the construction of this community was dependent upon a gift of cash which she received from an admirer.
Soon after Melania the Younger set up these communities, she learned that her (as yet) pagan uncle, Volusian, was traveling to Constantinople upon imperial business. Desiring that he should embrace Christianity, and wishing to see the greatest city of the Roman world, she decided to visit the capital of the Eastern Empire herself. Among the entourage accompanying her was Gerontius, the priest whom she probably met in Jerusalem and who wrote the chronicle of her life from which most of the information about her comes. The journey from Jerusalem to Constantinople was a triumph of sorts, for her fame had preceded her virtually everywhere she went. Her reception also was one as befitted a celebrity: among those Melania the Younger met was the Empress Eudocia (c. 400–460), who was so impressed by Melania's piety that she would one day return Melania the favor by visiting her in Jerusalem. Moreover, her journey had its intended effect, for although Volusian died in Constantinople, he did so only after having received baptism.
Melania the Younger thereafter returned to Jerusalem and her cell on the Mount of Olives. There she resumed her ascetic life while continuing her sponsorship of Christian building: in addition to the religious communities which were constructed under her patronage, she built a chapel of the Apostolion and a martyrium to hold relics attributed to Zachariah, Stephen, and the 40 martyrs of Sebaste. Melania the Younger was so busy with these various activities that she left Jerusalem only one time after her return from Constantinople. When Eudocia made her way to Jerusalem, in part to preside over the installment of relics in Melania's martyrium (Eudocia had a vested interest: she had wanted these relics for projects of her own), Melania the Younger met her at the port city of Sidon. The last three or so years of Melania's life thus were largely given over to spiritual struggle, prayer and study. Throughout, her reputation continued to grow—so much so that when she died in 439, Melania the Younger was mourned not only by those living in her communities, but by all Christians, great as well as humble. No taint of unorthodoxy affixed itself to her memory. In fact, present at her death was Paula the Younger , whose grandmother Paula (347–404) had (with Jerome) been among Melania the Elder's most ardent theological critics. It seems that Melania the Younger rehabilitated the reputation of her family in the minds of those who constituted the Church's orthodox faction.
Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia
Heilige Melania de Jongere als kluizenares. S. Melania Junior (titel op object). Kluizenaressen (serietitel). Sacra Eremus Ascetriarum (serietitel). prentmaker: Boëtius Adamsz. Bolswert, naar ontwerp van: Abraham Bloemaert, uitgever: Boëtius Adamsz. Bolswert, uitgever: Hendrik Aertssens (mogelijk), 1590 - 1612 en/of 1619
Santa Melania la Giovane Penitente
Etimologia: Melania = nera, scura, dal greco
Martirologio Romano: A Gerusalemme, santa Melania la Giovane, che con suo marito san Piniano andò via da Roma e si recò nella Città Santa, dove abbracciarono la regola, lei tra le donne consacrate a Dio e lui tra i monaci, ed entrambi riposarono in una santa morte.
I nonni a volte sono determinanti nelle decisioni di una famiglia, ma nel secolo V a Roma, lo erano certamente in modo molto influente. Infatti se Melania la Giovane poté vincere tutte le opposizioni aspre dei parenti, per la sua scelta di farsi monaca, lo dovette all’intervento della nonna Melania l’anziana, che anche lei da giovane dovette affrontare e vincere le stesse resistenze.
Figlia di Valerio Publicola della gens Valeria e di Ceionia Albina della gens Ceionia, quindi discendente di gloriose famiglie di Roma; a 14 anni sposò il cugino Piniano anche lui della gens Valeria, che dopo la morte di due loro figli, Melania convinse a praticare una vita penitente e casta.
Influenzata dalla propaganda monastica che nel secolo V era assai fervorosa in Roma, la pia matrona lasciò la città per ritirarsi con tutti i servi in una villa suburbana per vivere una vita monastica.
Qui sorse l’opposizione tenace dei parenti, vinta solo con l’intervento della nonna paterna, che qualche decennio prima, aveva fatta la stessa scelta fra le resistenze della nobile famiglia.
Nel 406 si trasferì a Nola presso s. Paolino, forse suo lontano parente, dopo due anni, nel 408 vista l’invasione dei barbari, si spostò nei suoi possedimenti in Sicilia e ancora nel 410 emigrò in quelli d’Africa, dove conobbe s. Agostino, stringendo con lui una salda amicizia.
Circondata da un centinaio di servi ed ancelle e con la compagnia del marito Piniano e della madre Albina, che la seguivano in questo peregrinare, formando una specie di comunità monastica, decise di recarsi a Gerusalemme, passando prima per l’Egitto, culla del monachesimo orientale, per rendere omaggio ai monaci di cui provava grande ammirazione, cercando di imitarli.
A Gerusalemme volle tenere una vita eremitica più stretta (già la nonna Melania assieme a Rufino, aveva fondato un monastero), facendosi costruire una piccola cella sul Monte degli Ulivi, sede di altri asceti e qui condusse una vita di pesanti penitenze.
Dopo un certo tempo e dopo altri contatti con i monaci egiziani, per apprendere meglio lo spirito ascetico, fondò in una zona molto isolata un monastero femminile e dopo qualche anno, anche uno maschile, con oratori dotati di reliquie di santi martiri.
Il regolamento delle Comunità, disposto da Melania stessa, fu improntato ad una estrema severità, sul modello egiziano, anche se nella liturgia si notava una certa influenza romana ed occidentale.
Fu tanto caritatevole che il suo patrimonio e quello del marito Piniano, morto nel 432, fu lentamente esaurito a favore dei poveri; ebbe una grande fama di santità in tutto l’ambiente di Gerusalemme, dove morì nel 440.
Il culto per s. Melania la Giovane fu abbastanza sentito in Oriente, mentre in Occidente cominciò solo nel secolo IX.
La commemorazione della grande matrona romana, asceta e monaca a Gerusalemme è
al 31 dicembre. Il suo culto fu approvato nel 1908.
Il nome Melania proviene dal greco Melan e significa “scura, nera”; fu un soprannome e poi nome individuale frequentemente attribuito alle donne brune, di origine greca ed orientale.
Autore: Antonio Borrelli
Ícone de Melânia, a Jovem
Melania die Jüngere
Gedenktag katholisch: 31. Dezember
Gedenktag orthodox: 31. Dezember
Name bedeutet: die Schwarze (griech.)
Klostergründerin und Äbtissin in Jerusalem
* um 383 in Rom
† 31. Dezember 439 auf dem Ölberg bei Jerusalem in Israel
Melania war Enkelin der älteren Melania und nach manchen verwandt mit Pammachius von Rom. Ihre Familie war begütert; der Vater Valerius Publicola war Senator und besaß auf dem Mons Caelius - an der Stelle des heutigen Neubaus des Hospitals San Giovanni (Addolorata) - einen Palast. Melanias gleichnamige Mutter Melania war tief beeindruckt von Hieronymus, der während seiner Zeit als Berater und Sekretär des römischen Bischofs Damasus starken geistigen Einfluss hatte und viele junge Leute, vor allem auch Frauen, in seinen Bann zog. Auf Druck der Familie musste sie aber im Alter von 13 Jahren heiraten; ihr Mann Pinianus war 17 Jahre alt. Ihre zwei Kinder starben bei und kurz nach der Geburt, Melania selbst geriet in Lebensgefahr.
Als Melania 20 Jahre alt war, versprach ihr Mann, Melanias Wunsch nach Enthaltsamkeit zu achten. Sie begann - gegen den Willen der Familie - ein asketisches Leben, verkaufte nach und nach den umfangreichen Besitz, verschenkte den Erlös an Arme, an Kirchen und Klöster sowie an von ihr selbst gegründete geistliche Gemeinschaften. Kurz vor 410 unternahm Melania mit ihrer Mutter Albina Pilgerfahrten zu Paulinus nach Nola, Rufinus nach Aquileia und Augustinus nach Thagaste - dem heutigen Souk Ahras. Dort gründeten sie zwei Klöster und halfen dem Bischof Alypius. 417 ging sie zusammen mit ihrem Mann Pinianus zu Cyrillus nach Alexandria sowie zu den Klöstern in Ägypten, dann ins Heilige Land, wo sie am Ölberg ein Männer- und ein Frauenkloster erbauten. Nach dem Tod ihres Mannes im Jahr 431 lebte sie als Einsiedlerin in einem Zelt am Ölberg und errichtete dort ein Apostoleion, in dem sie Pinianus bestatten ließ, und ein Martyrium, das 438 von Kaiserin Eudokia und Cyrillus von Alexandria feierlich eingeweiht wurde.
Bei ihrem Tod besaß die ehedem reichste Frau des römischen Imperiums der Überlieferung zufolge noch 50 Goldstücke, die sie dem Ortsbischof schenkte. Die Lebensgeschichte verfasste Gerontius um 453.
Attribute: Kohlkopf, Totenschädel
Suchen bei amazon: Bücher über Melania „die Jüngere”
Wikipedia: Artikel über Melania „die Jüngere”
Schauen Sie sich zufällige Biografien an:
Zum Schutz Ihrer Daten: mit 2 Klicks empfehlen!
Schäfer - zuletzt aktualisiert am 05.03.2022
• Vera Schauber, Hanns Michael Schindler: Heilige und Patrone im Jahreslauf. Pattloch, München 2001
• Charlotte Bretscher-Gisinger, Thomas Meier (Hg.): Lexikon des Mittelalters. CD-ROM-Ausgabe. J.B. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2000
• Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, begr. von Michael Buchberger. Hrsg. von Walter Kasper, 3., völlig neu bearb. Aufl., Bd. 7., Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1998
korrekt zitieren: Joachim Schäfer: Artikel Melania „die Jüngere”, aus dem Ökumenischen Heiligenlexikon - https://www.heiligenlexikon.de/BiographienM/Melania_Melanie_die_Juengere.htm, abgerufen am 31. 12. 2022
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet das Ökumenische Heiligenlexikon in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über http://d-nb.info/1175439177 und http://d-nb.info/969828497 abrufbar.
SOURCE : https://www.heiligenlexikon.de/BiographienM/Melania_Melanie_die_Juengere.htm
Melania (Melanie), die Jüngere
S. S. Melania et Pinianus (31. al. 19. Dec., 7. et 31. Jan., 8. Juni). Die hl. Melania, zum Unterschiede von ihrer gleichnamigen Großmutter die Jüngere zugenannt, war eine vornehme und überaus reiche Römerin und erblickte um d.J. 382 das Licht der Welt. Ihre Eltern hießen Publicola und Albina. Alles was irdische Ehre und Auszeichnung verschafft: Adel des Geschlechtes, Schönheit, ausgebreiteter Besitz, seine Bildung besaß sie. Vermählt mit einem reichen, angesehenen und braven Manne, Pinianus, lebte sie einige Jahre in glücklicher Ehe. Es ist irrig, daß sie im Ehestande Jungfrau geblieben, denn sie gebar ihrem Manne mehrere Kinder, die aber alle in zartem Alter starben. Erst nach etlichen Jahren pflog sie, mit Einwilligung ihres Mannes, gänzliche Enthaltsamkeit. Die frommen Eheleute gaben nach und nach alle ihre Güter in Spanien und Italien den Armen, und behielten nur ihre Besitzungen in Italien, Sicilien und Afrika für sich. Auch Melania's Mutter, Albina, folgte dem Beispiele der Tochter. Sie begab sich mit den frommen Eheleuten nach Afrika, wo sie zu Tagaste unter der Leitung des hl. Bischofs Alypius2. (s.d.) mehrere Jahre in steten Uebungen der Abtödtung und Gottseligkeit zubrachten. Im J. 417 zogen sie nach Jerusalem, wo sie dieselbe Lebensweise fortsetzten. Dort starb Albina im J. 433, zwei Jahre später Pinian, den der El. zu diesem Tage gleichfalls erwähnt, und vier Jahre nach ihm die hl. Melania, am 31. Dec. 439, nachdem sie die letzte Zeit ihres Lebens in einem von ihr gestifteten Kloster zugebracht hatte. Zu obigem Tage nennt sie das Mart. Rom. Die ältern Boll. führen sie außerdem zweimal, am 7. Jan. und am 8. Juni, unter den Uebergangenen auf. Im Martyrol. der Basilianer steht sie zum 19. Dec. Auf Abbildungen erscheint sie als vornehme, aber bescheiden gekleidete Römerin, Wohlthaten spendend, oder als Nonne in einer Zelle betend. (But.)
ΕΛΛΗΝΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΟΝ ΠΑΤΡΙΑΡΧΕΙΟΝ Greek orthodox Patriarchate ΙΕΡΟΣΟΛΥΜΩΝ of Jerusalem ΙΕΡΑ ΜΟΝΗ ΜΕΓΑΛΗΣ ΠΑΝΑΓΙΑΣ Monastery of the Great Mary, Mother of Jesus (Megali Panagia)
St. George's Church (Christian Quarter, Jerusalem)
ΕΛΛΗΝΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΟΝ ΠΑΤΡΙΑΡΧΕΙΟΝ Greek orthodox Patriarchate ΙΕΡΟΣΟΛΥΜΩΝ of Jerusalem ΙΕΡΑ ΜΟΝΗ ΜΕΓΑΛΗΣ ΠΑΝΑΓΙΑΣ Monastery of the Great Mary, Mother of Jesus (Megali Panagia)
St. George's Church (Christian Quarter, Jerusalem)
Den hellige Melania den Yngre (~383-439)
Minnedag: 31. desember
Sammen med ektemannen, den hellige Pinian
Den hellige Melania (Melanie) kalles «den Yngre» for å skjelne henne fra sin hellige farmor Melania den Eldre. Hun ble født rundt år 383 i Roma som datter av senator Valerius Publicola fra den romerske patrisierslekten Valerii og hans hustru Albina, som var den kristne datteren av en hedensk prest. Hennes farmor, enke etter konsulen Valerius Maximus, ga henne en dypt kristen oppdragelse, slik at hun lengtet etter å gi hele sitt liv til Gud. Denne lengselen skulle hun bevare livet ut.
Bestemoren Melania den Eldre hadde vært en de første kristne kvinner i det romerske samfunn som dro til Det hellige Land for å følge i Kristi fotspor, og der levde hun et botsliv mellom 372 og 379. Hun forlot Roma for godt i 409 og døde i Jerusalem året etter. Hun hadde en temmelig dominerende personlighet, og hennes forhold til barnebarnet var ikke alltid enkelt.
Den yngre Melania vokste opp i Romas mest praktfulle palass og ble uvilkårlig temmelig bortskjemt. Men tidlig merket hun seg den skarpe motsetningen mellom hennes og hennes standsfellers liv og den undertrykte kasten av tjenere og fattige. De ble som dyrene bare verdsatt etter sin arbeidsevne, i motstrid til Evangeliet, som lærte at alle mennesker er brødre. Da hun på denne måten begynte å ta sin kristne tro på alvor og ville leve et liv i forsakelse, ble faren urolig.
For selv om Publicola var kristen, var han ambisiøs på familiens vegne, og det synes som om han var i konflikt med sin mor, som var dypt influert av den asketiske bevegelsen som hadde nådd Roma fra Nord-Afrika og Midtøsten. Hun ga bort det meste av det hun eide og avla sølibatsløfte. Det er mye som tyder på at Publicola i tillegg til datteren Melania den Yngre hadde en sønn som ble «bortført» av bestemoren til et asketisk liv, slik at datteren var hans eneste håp om å få en mannlig arving.
Derfor arrangerte han i 397 et ambisiøst ekteskap mot hennes vilje med sin rike nevø Pinian (Valerius Pinianus), sønn av den nordafrikanske prefekten Valerius Severus. Hun var 14-år og han 17 år gammel og de var altså fetter og kusine. Melania var også influert av sin bestemor og ønsket å forbli jomfru, men Publicola insisterte på at ekteskapet skulle fullbyrdes. I følge Melanias biograf Gerontius tryglet hun Pinian om at de skulle leve avholdende, men han nektet og insisterte på at de måtte få to sønner først. De nygifte må ha vært utsatt for et intenst og motstridende press fra sine slektninger.
Unge Melania ble gravid, og hennes første barn, som så mye var avhengig av, ble en jente. Publicola var fortsatt fast bestemt på å få en mannlig arving, så han stoppet datteren fra å knytte seg til kristne (trolig inkludert hans egen mor), som kunne komme til å oppmuntre henne til å leve i sølibat. Melania ble gravid igjen, og den 10. august 399 fikk hun veer alt for tidlig. Etter en vanskelig og farlig forløsning fødte hun en gutt, men han døde dagen etter. Melania var fortsatt bare 16 år gammel.
Kort etter døde også datteren. Melania var livstruende syk, og Pinian, som virkelig elsket sin hustru til tross for alt familiepresset, sverget at hvis hun fikk leve, ville de begge bli sølibatære. Men hennes far satte seg bittert mot dette, og det var først da han var døende fem år senere at han testamenterte alle sine eiendommer til Melania og ba henne tilgi ham for å ha motsatt seg hennes «himmelske kall».
Da Publicola døde, arvet datteren hele hans formue og ble enormt rik. Hun eide eiendommer i Roma og store gods i andre deler av Italia, på Sicilia, i Spania, Nord-Afrika, Britannia og trolig også i Gallia og Aquitania. I tillegg hadde Pinian også sin egen formue. Melanias biograf gjør det klart at de var fast bestemte på å «gjøre seg til fiender av det verdslige livs forvirring» til tross for sin velstand. Pinian var nå Melanias «bror i Herren» snarere enn hennes mann. Sammen med hennes mor Albina forlot de Roma for aldri mer å vende tilbake. De dro til en villa de eide på landet, som de gjorde om til et religiøst senter. Der viet de seg til å «oppøve praktiseringen av dydene».
De hjalp de fattige og trengende, besøkte fanger og kjøpte dem fri hvis de var i fengsel på grunn av gjeld, ga ly til fremmede og besøkte de syke. De levde bokstavelig ut de nådegjerningene som listes opp hos evangelisten Matteus:
«For jeg var sulten, men dere gav meg ikke mat; jeg var tørst, men dere gav meg ikke drikke; jeg var fremmed, men dere tok ikke imot meg; jeg var uten klær, men dere kledde meg ikke; jeg var syk og i fengsel, men dere så ikke til meg.» Da skal de svare: «Herre, når så vi deg sulten eller tørst eller fremmed eller uten klær eller syk eller i fengsel uten å hjelpe deg?» Men han skal svare dem: «Sannelig, jeg sier dere: Det dere ikke gjorde mot en av disse minste, har dere heller ikke gjort mot meg.» (Matt 25,42-45).
De kledde seg i billige og grove klær, selv om det ser ut som om Pinian fant dette vanskeligere enn Melania og var langsom med å kvitte seg med sine fine linklær. Unge kvinner, enker og over tretti familier sluttet seg til dem, og eiendommen ble et senter for gjestfrihet, nestekjærlighet og et religiøst liv. Melania og Pinian var tilhengere av tankene til Rufinus av Aquileia (d. 410), som selv kunne ha vært blant helgenene hadde det ikke vært for hans krangler med den hellige Hieronymus. De anså ikke Origenes for å være kjetter, som Hieronymus og hans romerske støtter, de hellige Marcella og Pammachius, mente.
Melania og Pinian bestemte seg for å selge alle sine italienske eiendommer. Deres slektninger, spesielt Pinians bror Severus, var opprørt over denne oppdelingen av familieformuen, og de kan ha hatt en eller annen lovlig grunn til å forhindre den. Severus ser ut til å ha fremprovosert et slaveopprør og overtalte flere tusen av Melanias slaver om at det ville være bedre for dem å bli solgt til ham enn på det åpne marked. En ukjent byprefekt forsøkte å konfiskere eiendommene til fordel for bykassen, men han ble drept før han kunne gå til aksjon. Så mange hindre ble plassert i deres vei at Melania og Pinian gikk til Serena, svigermor til keiser Honorius (395-423), og sikret seg hennes støtte til å be keiseren om å beskytte det lovlige salget av eiendommene.
Salget ble gjennomført og inntektene var enorme, og de ble brukt til verdige formål i mange deler av keiserriket. Fattige og syke mennesker, fanger, bankerotte, pilegrimer, kirker og klostre ble hjulpet og utrustet i stort antall. Den monastiske historikeren Palladius (ca 365-425), fra 400 biskop av Helenopolis, forteller samtidig i sin historie om det tidligste munkevesenet, Historia Lausiaca, at klostrene i Egypt, Syria og Palestina mottok svært store gaver. På to år ga Melania friheten til 8.000 slaver og solgte mange flere til Severus, trolig på deres egen anmodning.
Disse hendelsene blir mer forklarlige når vi husker at de fant sted i 405-07, da barbarene herjet Gallia og hadde gått inn i Italia. Melanias nyeste biograf, dr. Elizabeth Clark, mener at disse eiendomssalgene var så omfattende at de må ha vært tilstrekkelige til å gjøre den romerske økonomien ustabil – på en tid da enorme mengder gull trengtes for å verge seg mot Alarik visigoteren («vestgoteren») og andre barbarhøvdinger. Dette kan forklare hvorfor byprefekten fikk støtte fra senatet til sin plan om å ta over eiendommene, og kanskje hvorfor mange av slavene søkte beskyttelse hos Severus. Det kan også forklare hvorfor Melania og Pinian forlot sitt palass i Roma så hodekulls og kvittet seg med alle sine italienske eiendommer. Hastverket antyder at de forventet slutten på den siviliserte verden slik de kjente den.
Slutten skulle komme svært snart. I 408 eller tidlig i 409 ble Serena henrettet etter ordre fra senatet, muligens for sin hjelp til å få eiendommene solgt. Hun ble betraktet som en forræder mot Roma, og på den tiden blokkerte Alarik Tiberen for å hindre at forsyninger kom gjennom. Den keiserlige byen var herjet av sult og pest, og lik råtnet i gatene.
Melania og Pinian og Albina hadde flyktet til sine eiendommer på Sicilia sammen med Rufinus av Aquileia, og de var hos Rufinus da han døde. Men da goterne nådde Calabria og brente Reggio like over Messinastredet, bestemte de seg for å dra til Nord-Afrika. De var åpenbart fortsatt svært velstående flyktninger. Da deres skip var nødt til å søke ly for en storm, trolig i Lipari, oppdaget de at øya ble holdt beleiret av sjørøvere som krevde løsepenger. For å redde innbyggerne fra en katastrofe, bestakk hun piratene med en enorm sum i gull.
De hadde nordafrikanske eiendommer å reise til, og til slutt slo de seg ned i Tagaste i Numidia rundt 410. Den hellige Augustin kalte dem «virkelige lys for Kirken», og Pinian gjorde like dypt inntrykk som hans hustru. Da han dro til Hippo for å besøke Augustin, ønsket folket at Pinian skulle bli presteviet for å gjøre tjeneste for dem, og det ble opptøyer fordi de trodde at han ble forhindret fra dette av biskopen av Tagaste. Pinian hadde åpenbart ikke noen intensjon om å bli presteviet, men orden ble gjenskapt først da han lovte at hvis han noen gang ble prest, skulle han utføre sin tjeneste i Hippo.
Mens de var i Nord-Afrika, etablerte og utrustet Melania to klostre, et for menn og et for kvinner, for mennesker som hadde vært slaver på hennes eiendommer der. Selv levde hun sammen med kvinnene, men hun tillot ikke dem å leve så asketisk som hun selv gjorde. Hun spiste bare annenhver dag, og noen ganger fastet hun i lange perioder. Hun sov vanligvis bare to timer hver natt, ba kontinuerlig og bar klær av strie. Hun arbeidet også hardt, og hennes biograf Gerontius sier at hun «skrev av tekster uten feil». Dyktigheten til en virkelig samvittighetsfull og nøyaktig skriver ble høyt verdsatt, og 500 år senere var det fortsatt manuskripter i sirkulasjon som ble tilskrevet Melanias hånd.
I 417 dro Melania, Pinian og Albina fra Afrika og dro til Jerusalem, hvor de slo seg ned i pilegrimshospitset ved Den hellige grav. Innen da hadde de gitt bort alle sine besittelser bortsett fra dem i områder besatt av barbarene, og de var fattige nok til å tenke på å skrive inn sine navn i byens register over dem som trengte almisser. En venn var i stand til å selge deler av sine eiendommer i Spania og brakte dem pengene.
Melania «grep dem som fra en løves munn» og foreslo for Pinian at de skulle reise for å besøke munkene i den egyptiske ørken. Dette gjorde de, og de fortsatte å dele ut penger med raus hånd. Deres vaner var fortsatt de rikes vaner. De prøvde å gi noe gull til en munk, men han sa at han ikke hadde bruk for det og kastet gullstykkene i elva. De var så imponert over ørkenfedrenes askeiske eksempel at de vendte tilbake for å slå seg ned i Jerusalem i et liv av ensomhet og kontemplasjon. Her presenterte Melanias kusine Paula, niese av den hellige Eustochium, dem for Hieronymus. Melania ble en av hans nærmeste venner og kolleger. Han kalte henne «den fromme fru Melanium» og skrev at hun var «fremtredende blant kristne for sin sanne edelhet». Hun bosatte seg i en liten hytte på Oljeberget, og der slapp hun ikke inn andre enn sin mann og sin mor. Hun kopierte bøker og hadde omsorg for fattige.
Etter 14 år i Palestina døde Albina i 431, og Pinian døde året etter. Han nevnes i Martyrologium Romanum sammen med sin hustru. Melania gravla sin mor og sin «åndelige bror» side ved side på Oljeberget, og selv levde hun i en liten celle like ved. Dette ble kjernen til en stor kommunitet av viede jomfruer, men Melania nektet å opptre som deres superior. Hennes eget bidrag til kommunitetslivet var bemerkelsesverdig for sin mildhet og omsorg for den enkelte.
Hun bygde også et kloster for menn på Oljeberget. En munk fra dette klosteret var Gerontius, som var hennes disippel og kapellan og biograf. Det er mulig at hans ønske om å prise de hellige gjerningene til «den velsignede kvinnen» ikke yter full rettferdighet til Pinian og Albina.
Melania hadde nå bare ett ønske igjen: Å omvende sin hedenske farbror Volusianus, som var romersk ambassadør ved hoffet til keiser Theodosios II (408-50) i Konstantinopel. Da fikk hun et brev om at han var syk og at han ville treffe henne før han døde. Han kjente ikke igjen henne, men ble likevel så rørt over hennes ord at han lot seg døpe.
Melania var tilbake i Jerusalem før jul 439. Julaften reiste hun til Betlehem, og i den kalde kirken pådro hun seg en vanlig forkjølelse. Etter messen ved daggry sa hun til sin kusine Paula at hun var døende. På St. Stefans dag 26. desember deltok hun ved messen i hans basilika og leste deretter fortellingen om hans martyrium for sine ledsagere. Hun ønsket dem alt godt og sa at de aldri mer skulle høre henne lese.
Hun foretok et farvelbesøk til munkene, deretter sammenkalte hun søstrene igjen og ba om deres bønner, «for jeg drar nå til Herren». Hun sa til dem at hvis hun noen ganger hadde snakket strengt til dem, var det av kjærlighet, og hun sa: «Herren vet at jeg er uverdig, og jeg ville aldri våge å sammenligne meg med noen god kvinne, ikke engang de som lever i verden. Likevel tror jeg at Fienden selv ikke på Dommedag vil anklage meg for å ha sovnet med bitterhet i mitt hjerte». Om kvelden gjentok hun Jobs ord: «Som Gud vil, er det gjort», og døde. Det var den 31. desember 439 og hun var 56 år gammel. Ved sin død eide den tidligere rikeste kvinnen i det romerske imperiet enda 50 gullstykker, som hun ga til stedets biskop.
Man hadde lenge visst at det eksisterte betydelige fragmenter av en latinsk biografi om Melania i ulike biblioteker, og bollandistene trykket dem i Anal. Boll. 8 (1889). Den greske teksten ble utgitt fra et manuskript i Barberini-biblioteket av den belgiske bollandist-pateren Hippolyte Delehaye SJ (1859-1941) i Anal. Boll. 22 (1903). I 1905 oppdaget kardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindar, statssekretær for pave Leo XIII (1878-1903), en komplett kopi av den latinske biografien i Escorial, og han ga ut både den latinske og greske teksten trykt i et praktfullt bind i folioformat, Santa Melania Giuniore Senatrice Romana, med en lang introduksjon, forklaringer og noter.
I et langt bidrag til Anal. Boll. 25 (1906) undersøkte p. Adhémar d'Alès ulikhetene mellom de to tekstene. Hans konklusjon var at biografien ble samlet av Melanias disippel Gerontius rundt ni år etter hennes død i et første utkast skrevet på gresk, men at tekstene på gresk og latin som er bevart, ble utdypet få år senere fra denne originalen.
Melanias liv brakte henne i kontakt med de hellige Paulinus av Nola, Augustin og Hieronymus, og alle hadde svært høye tanker om henne og Pinian. Melania ble æret liturgisk i østkirken i hundrevis av år, men det var ingen kult i vest før i 1905, da kardinal Rampolla ga ut det monumentale verket om hennes liv. Den hellige pave Pius X (1903-14) godkjente feiringen av hennes fest i 1908 for somaskerne, en observans fulgt av de latinske katolikkene i Konstantinopel og Jerusalem.
Hennes minnedag er 31. desember og hennes navn står i Martyrologium Romanum. Hun fremstilles som nonne eller eneboer, ofte i bønn i en hule. Som attributter har hun kors, palme, kalk, krus, hodeskalle, kålhode eller en annen grønnsak. I vesten finnes det få avbildninger av henne.
Kilder: Attwater/John, Attwater/Cumming, Butler (XII), Benedictines, Delaney, Bunson, Engelhart, Schauber/Schindler, Melchers, KIR, CE, CSO, Patron Saints SQPN, Infocatho, Heiligenlexikon, annasromguide.dk - Kompilasjon og oversettelse: p. Per Einar Odden - Sist oppdatert: 2004-04-08 14:08