Writing a eulogy of his good friend Paula, a noble widow who was also his student, St. Jerome recalls how she used to give abundantly whenever she saw someone in need.
No mind could be more considerate than hers, or none kinder towards the lowly. She did not court the powerful; at the same time, if the proud and the vainglorious sought her, she did not turn from them with disdain. If she saw a poor man, she supported him; and if she saw a rich one, she urged him to do good. She was so anxious to turn no needy person away that she borrowed money at interest and often contracted new loans to pay off old ones.
I was wrong, I admit; but when I saw her so profuse in giving, I reproved her alleging the Apostle’s words: “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want” (2 Corinthians 13-14). I warned her that she might not always have means to do as she would wish. I brought in other arguments to the same purpose; but with admirable modesty and brevity she overruled them all.
“God is my witness,” she said, “that what I do I do for his sake. My prayer is that I may die a beggar, not leaving a penny to my daughter and indebted to strangers for my shroud.”
I wished her to be more careful in managing her business, but she with a faith more glowing than mine held to the Savior with her whole heart. Poor in spirit, she followed the Lord in his poverty, giving back to him what she had received and becoming poor for his sake.
–St. Jerome, Letter 108, 15
Do I give even as much as I could comfortably give to charity?
Lord, bless the poor of your people, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, and give us what is sufficient to abound in every good work.
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