Pammachius was a prominent citizen in the ancient Christian empire of Rome, and his life is woven together with the lives of all of the prominent saints of his age. His devoted love for his wife led him to holiness, even after her death.
He was classmates with the great Scripture scholar, St. Jerome; they studied rhetoric together and remained close friends for the rest of their lives. Pammachius was a member of a noble family and grew up to become a Roman senator.
In 385, he married Paulina (who was also friends with St. Jerome; her mother is also a saint). Twelve years later, Paulina died in childbirth. Pammachius must have been heartbroken, as he received letters of sympathy and encouragement from many friends. “Your wife is now a witness and an intercessor for you with Jesus Christ,” wrote a friend, St. Paulinus. “Make her a partner in your charities. She is honored by your virtues. She is fed by the bread you have given to the poor.”
Pammachius took the advice and dedicated the rest of his life to works of charity. With another friend, St. Fabiola, he built a hospice in Rome to offer shelter to pilgrims, especially those who were sick and poor. He cared for the forgotten people of Rome—poor and disabled people gathered around him whenever he went into the streets. He saw his care for the poor as a way of following in his wife’s footsteps.
Pammachius corresponded with the great St. Augustine, and was fearlessly honest in his letters to St. Jerome, who was known to be bitter and vitriolic at times in his pursuit of the cause of truth. Pammachius wrote several times to urge Jerome to tone down his language. Jerome often refused, but their correspondence encouraged him into new ways of thinking.
St. Pammachius’ image is used here with permission from Catholic.org.
St. Pammachius, the Roman senator whose devotion to his deceased wife led him to give his life to the poor, pray for us!