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melania elderShe was born in 325 in one of the Roman colonies in Spain to a Roman noble family called the Valerii.  Melania married a man named Valerius Maximus Basilius at the age of 14, and moved to Rome, where he became the Praefectus Urbi – essentially the mayor or city administrator of Rome, a very influential position.

Valerius died, followed quickly by two of her three sons as disease spread through the city. Overwhelmed by her grief and loss, Melania ensured the care of her remaining son, and much to the disdain of her wealthy family, went off to Alexandria in Egypt to mourn and learn the ways of the Christian monks.

Melania spent her time praying and learning from the Desert Fathers. However, there was a period of upheaval in Egypt, and many of the monks were deported out of the desert to Palestine. Melania secretly went with them, disguising herself as a slave and caring for their needs. After about five years, when she was free to live her faith openly again, she joined some of the other monks in establishing a monastery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

After many years, Melania rejoined her family, bringing her new ascetic spirituality to them. She cared for her son and his new wife, and became a big influence for her granddaughter, who was also named Melania after her. In fact, the granddaughter was so inspired by Melania the Elder that she took up the same calling and herself became a saint, known as St Melania the Younger.

Melania the Elder lived a happy and complete life close to the Lord, and near the end of her life, moved back to Palestine, where she died in 410 in Jerusalem. –

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