Early Christian benefactress and friend of St. jerome; d. Rome, 399. She came to the wealthy Roman nobility descended from Julius Maximus and had an extremely passionate nature. Fabiola divorced her first husband because of his vices. To protect herself, she took a second husband, separating herself from Church communion until, as Jerome asserted, the death of her second husband and her public penitence at the church of the Lateran on Easter eve in the presence of the bishop and clergy. She sold her possessions, gave to the poor, and supported monasteries in Italy. In 395 she journeyed to Bethlehem with her relative Oceanus, staying there with SS. paula and eustochium.
When the controversy over origenism divided Jerome and his friends from rufinus of aquileia and Melania, efforts were made to draw Fabiola to the cause of Bp. john of jerusalem, who supported Rufinus (Jerome, Cont. Ruf. 3.14); but they proved unsuccessful. Fabiola eagerly attached herself to the teachings of Jerome (Epist. 77), who wrote two dissertations for her: one, on the mystical meaning of the dress of the high priest (Epist. 64); and another, on the 42 stations (mansiones ) of the Israelites in the desert (Epist. 78). At the rumor of an invasion of the Huns she returned to Rome in 396. A letter from the Roman priest Amandus to Jerome in which he asks Jerome's views on a woman taking a husband while another, although dissolute, husband lives indicates that she may have contemplated a third marriage; but she was discouraged from it by Jerome in his answer to Amandus (Epist. 55).
The last three years of her life were spent in charitable activity. She joined pammachius in the institution of a hospital at Porto, where she herself cared for the poor and sick. As her restless disposition had found Rome and Italy too small for her charities, she was considering a long journey when she died. The whole of Rome attended the funeral of Fabiola, their great benefactress.
Feast: Dec. 27.
Bibliography: w. h. fremantle, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, ed. w. smith and h. wace, (London 1877–87) 2:442–443. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienneet de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq and h. i. marrou (Paris 1907–53) 7.2:2274–75. Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 1878–90) 22:690–698. a. s. d. thierry, Saint Jérôme, 2 v. (Paris 1867). f. cavallera, Saint Jérôme, 2 v. (Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense 1, 2; 1922).
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