Saint Lea of Rome: Wife, Widow, Religious
Today, March 22, we celebrate the liturgical memorial of Saint Lea of Rome (died 384), a Roman noblewoman who upon the death of her husband, entered consecrated life.
Much of what we know about Saint Lea, we learn through the writing of Saint Jerome. She was born into wealth and privilege and married up the social ladder. However, shortly after her marriage, she was widowed. She was left in a financially secure position, but instead of retiring as a wealthy widow, she joined a group of consecrated virgins with her friend, Saint Marcella, leaving behind her money and social status. She became superior of the women and dedicated herself to the service of her sisters.
Saint Lea became well-acquainted with Saint Jerome when she entered consecrated life. He eulogized her in a letter written during the year 384 to Saint Marcella, his spiritual daughter, another religious who had also left her aristocratic life behind after being widowed. He wrote to Saint Marcella that Saint Lea, a woman of austerity, obedience and extraordinary penances had died. He described her as “blessed,” emphasizing the woman’s heroic virtues as being worthy of heaven.
The life of Saint Lea was one of unforeseen change and service. After the death of her husband, she gave up her wealth and status, living “like a fool on earth,” according to Saint Jerome. Saint Lea received her reward in heaven for her loving and humble life of obedience and sacrifice on earth. During this Lenten season, let us follow her example, replacing our pride with humble, loving service to one another in obedience to God’s call. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and heaven, our eternal goal.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 1-2).