Spirituality for Today – January 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 6

Saint of the Month
St. Paula, January 26

An image of Saint PaulaSaint Paula

Paula was born in Rome on May 5, 347, into a wealthy, aristocratic family. She married Toxotius, a man of equally high status, and they had five children – one son and four daughters. When Paula was 32, Toxotius died. Her grief was nearly unbearable until she decided to dedicate herself to God. From then on , Paula prayed, fasted, studied the Bible and led an austere life. She used her wealth to give generously to charity.

Jerome, a local priest, who at the time was translating the Bible into Latin, became Paula's spiritual director. After Paula's oldest daughter died, Jerome consoled Paula. But he also cautioned her not to be consumed by her grief. Then when he left for the Holy Land, to complete his translation of the Bible, Paula followed him.

After arriving in the Holy Land, Paula visited many of the sites from Jesus' time. She finally settled in Bethlehem and helped Jerome with his work. In fact, he had such respect for Paula's knowledge that she was able to persuade him to revise his translation of the Book of Psalm.

Paula lived an austere life in Bethlehem, using her great wealth to help others. She had a hospital built on the road to Jerusalem and financed the building of a monastery for women and lived there in poverty and prayer. She fasted so much that at times Jerome worried about her health.

Paul died on January 26, 404, twenty years after she had arrived in Bethlehem. She was buried beneath the Church of the Nativity, and Jerome wrote her epitaph.

Hail Bethlehem, House of Bread,
wherein was born that Break that come down from Heaven...
[I], miserable sinner though I am,
have been accounted worthy to kiss the manger
in which the Lord cried as a babe,
and to pray in the cave in which
the travailing virgin gave birth to the Infant Lord.
This is my rest because it is my Lord's native place;
here will I dwell for my Savior has chosen this spot.

– Words spoken by St. Paula at Jesus crib in Bethlehem

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives