Eustochium V (RM)
People clamour for stories about the irascible Saint Jerome, and Saint Eustochium's story converges with his.
St. Jerome was obviously well-loved by the matrons of Rome, though he did have a biting tongue. His counsel to St. Eustochium: "Set before your eyes the blessed Virgin Mary, whose purity was such that she earned the reward of being the mother of the Lord."
Saint Paula's life was such a powerful witness that she inspired her own daughter Eustochium, who was born in Rome c. 368, to sainthood. Eustochium was single for the Lord-- she consecrated herself to a life of virginity, having learned austerity from her widowed mother and St. Marcella.
The home of the widow Saint Marcella became a sort of monastery/school for the ladies, who devoted themselves to intense, scientific study of the Scriptures on their own. These patrician women of the capital city--SS Paula, Eustochium, Blaesilla, Marcella and her ward Principia, Marcellina (sister of St. Ambrose), Fabiola, Asella, and Lea (all saints)--encouraged one another to strive for Christian perfection. Living just prior to the fall of Rome, they did not wait until disaster forced the ascetic life upon them; they saw that luxury is out of place in a Christian.
When young, sarcastic Jerome arrived in Rome in 382, Marcella prevailed upon him to teach their group Hebrew and exegesis. And he did. Eustochium was given spiritual guidance and scriptural instruction by St. Jerome between 382-385 during his stay in Rome. Eustochium's sister St. Blaesilla threw herself so vehemently into the ascetic life that she died in 384. Paula was almost crazy with grief, but Jerome rebuked her and promised to glorify Blaesilla by writing about her. The group was very close urging each other on to sanctity. In fact, St. Paulina (Eustochium's other sister) married one of Jerome's school friends. When Paulina's children were stillborn and she died young, her husband became a monk.
When Jerome left Rome, St. Paula and her daughter Eustochium followed and joined St. Jerome at Antioch, Egypt, and Bethlehem.
Paula's fortune was added to what money Jerome possessed to found a monastery near Bethlehem. Jerome lived in a cave nearby 'to make sure (said Paula) that if Mary and Joseph came again to Bethlehem, there would be somewhere for them to stay.'
Three communities of women were founded close by St. Jerome's monastery, and Paula took charge of one of them. Eustochium took care of every material need, including the cooking. But Jerome relied on her for much more. He was busy translating the Bible into Latin. When his eyes began to fail, he would have been obliged to abandon the work, had not Eustochium and her mother been there to help him. He reckoned that they were better able to judge the value of his work than most men, and dedicated some of his writings to them.
When Paula died in 404, Eustochium (said Jerome) wished she could have been buried with her. But instead she took over the community abbey. She died in 418 or 419.
Eustochium's life is also documented by the many surviving letters and scriptural commentaries of St. Jerome, which are directed to Paula and Eustochium. Eustochium in her youth was the addressee of one of Jerome's most famous letter (Ep. 22)--a lengthy treatise on virginity. (In his letters to the women St. Jerome demonstrated true humanity and fatherly care.)
(Note: Since the universal Church celebrates St. Wenceslas, the martyr-king of Bohemia, on September 28 (died 929), St. Eustochium's feast is only celebrated locally.)
About Saints of the Day
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