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Saint Paulinus of Nola

Saint Paulinus of Nola
  • Century: 4th & 5th Century
  • Patronage: Poor, Pilgrims
  • Feast Day: June 22nd

St. Paulinus of Nola was born in Bordeaux, France.  He was a contemporary of St. Augustine and was a great friend of his.  He practiced his ministry in Nola in Campania, where he was a monk and later a priest and a Bishop.  He was born into a high-ranking family.  It was here with the poet Ausonius as his teacher, that he received a fine literary education.  

He left his native region for the position of Governor of Campania.  He was noticed and admired for his gifts of wisdom and gentleness.  During this period the seed of conversion grew in his heart.  The incentive came from the simple faith of the people there, who honored the tomb of St. Felix the Martyr – now a present day Shrine. He took interest in the people’s dedication to St. Felix and built an inn and road to facilitate access to the many pilgrims – all the while discovering the way to the city in Heaven, in his conversion.  Once he arrived at faith he wrote, “The man without Christ is dust and shadow”.    

He left to study the meaning of life in Milan at the school of Ambrose.  He also completed his Christian formation in his native land where he was baptized Bishop Delphinus of Bordeaux.  He also married, a noblewoman from Barcelona and had a son who died only a few days after birth.  He felt God called him to consecrate himself to Christ.  In full agreement with his wife, he sold his possessions for the benefit of the poor and with her, left for Nola.  They settled beside the Basilica of St. Felix, in a chaste brotherhood according to a form of life, which drew others.  Despite his priestly status to care for pilgrims, he was chosen to be the Bishop of Nola in 409.

Paulinus intensified his attention to the poor, and became the Pastor of Charity.  He even offered himself in Charity as a prisoner in place of a widow’s son.  All of this took place during the barbarian invasions of his time.  Paulinus’ conversion impressed his contemporaries.  He continued to write poetry and songs saying, “To my mind the only art is faith, and Christ is the poetry”.  He also was noted as saying, “The relinquishment or sale of temporal goods possessed in this world is not the completion but only the beginning of the race in the stadium; it is not, so to speak, the goal, but only the starting point. In fact, the athlete does not win because he strips himself, for he undresses precisely in order to begin the contest, whereas he only deserves to be crowned as victorious when he has fought properly.” He also called the poor his “masters”.  One of his close friends was St. Martin of Tours.   

Practical Take Away 

The witness of St Paulinus of Nola helps us to perceive the Church, as she is presented to us, as a sacrament of intimate union with God, of unity among all of us and, lastly, among the whole human race.  In this perspective it is easy to see St. Paulinus of Nola as a true model of faith and virtue that “is” relevant to all of us today.  Ask for his intercession to help us in our faith, and we will not be let down.