St. Lea of Rome

St. Lea (died c. 383) is a fourth-century saint from Rome. She is known only through the testimony of her beloved friend, the learned Saint Jerome. Jerome, a scholarly monk best known for his Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate), is the Church’s only source of information on St. Lea. A noblewoman of Rome, born into wealth and privilege, she was a contemporary of Jerome. However, soon after her marriage she was widowed and left very sound financially. Instead of retiring as a wealthy widow, however, she joined a convent of consecrated virgins in the city—shedding all the money and social standing she possessed. In later years she was named the prioress of the convent. Saint Lea supported the house run by Saint Marcella, working as a menial servant, and later served as the group’s superior.

It appears that she died in 384 while St. Jerome and St. Marcella were reading and working on Psalm 73. In a letter relaying her death to others within the city of Rome, St. Jerome writes to St. Marcella that St. Lea, a woman of austerity, obedience and remarkable penances had died. He described her as “blessed,” emphasizing the woman’s virtues as being worthy of heaven.

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