Mike Aquilina

Memorial of St. Paulinus

Thursday June 22nd 2006, 5:30 am

Paulinus was born at Bordeaux about 354 into a prominent family. He became governor of the Province of Campania, but he soon realized that he could not find in public life the happiness he sought. From 380 to 390 he lived almost entirely in his native land. He married a Spanish lady, a Christian named Therasia. To her, to Bishop Delphinus of Bordeaux and his successor the Presbyter Amandus, and to St. Martin of Tours, who had cured him of some disease of the eye, he owed his conversion. He and his brother were baptized at the same time by Delphinus. When Paulinus lost his only child eight days after birth, and when he was threatened with the charge of having murdered his brother, he and his wife decided to withdraw from the world, vow celibacy, and enter the monastic life. They went to Spain about 390.

At Christmas, 394 or 395, the inhabitants of Barcelona obliged him to be ordained. Having had a special devotion to St. Felix, who was buried at Nola in Campania, he laid out a fine avenue leading to the church containing Felix’s tomb, and beside it he built a hospital. He decided to settle down there with Therasia; and he distributed the largest part of his possessions among the poor. In 395 he moved to Nola, where he led a rigorous, ascetic, and monastic life, at the same time contributing generously to the Church.

About 409 Paulinus was chosen Bishop of Nola. For twenty years he served in a praiseworthy manner. He was a prolific author of letters and poems. Many of his letters to famous friends have been preserved — including letters to St. Augustine. Thirty-three poems have also survived. He was a keen observer of detail and a master of description; so his works give us many rare glimpses of ordinary Christian life in his time — of the construction of sanctuaries, the celebration of feast days, and the layout of particular churches, not least St. Peter’s in Rome.

He also wrote letters in verse, including a nuptial hymn that extols the dignity and sanctity of Christian marriage, and a poem of comfort to parents on the death of their child.

Paulinus was known for his fervent devotion to the saints, which even Augustine thought was rather excessive!

But even during his lifetime Paulinus was looked upon as saint. When he died, on June 22, 431, he was honored as he himself had always honored the saints.

Got many of the details of St. Paulinus’s life from the ever-handy Catholic Encyclopedia, but supplemented with other sources, such as the lovely translations in the Ancient Christian Writers series.