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St. Melania the Elder

Commemorated on June 8

St. Melania was a wealthy and noble woman, born in Spain in the fourth century. Upon turning fourteen, she married and moved with her husband to the suburbs of Rome.

At 22 years old, she was left a widow, when her husband and two of her children died. Immediately following their deaths, she converted to Christianity. When her remaining son turned ten, she placed him with a guardian and set off for Alexandria where she joined other Christian desert ascetics to visit the monks at Nitria.

She gave away most of her great wealth to the needy, and to Egyptian Christians being persecuted by the Arians. It is said that in three days she fed some 5,000 people.

When the Orthodox in Egypt were exiled to Palestine, she went with them to Jerusalem, where she built a convent for virgins on the Mount of Olives. Eventually, over 50 nuns found the path to salvation at her monastery.

Melania founded more monasteries and promoted theological tolerance and the unity of Christianity. On a visit to Rome to see her son, she also influenced his daughter, Melania. Known as Melania the Younger, she too took up the religious calling and followed her grandmother back to Jerusalem.

St. Melania entered the convent herself, and entered into eternal life there in 410. Her granddaughter, Melania the Younger, is commemorated on December 31.

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