Lea of Rome is known only through the testimony of her beloved friend, the learned Saint Jerome. A noblewoman of Rome, born into wealth and privilege, she was a contemporary of Jerome. However, soon after her marriage she was widowed and left very sound financially. Instead of retiring as a wealthy widow, however, she joined a convent of consecrated virgins in the city—shedding all the money and social standing she possessed. In later years she was named the prioress of the convent.
It appears that she died in 384 while she was reciting Psalm 73 (alongside St. Jerome). In a letter relaying her death to others within the city of Rome, St. Jerome writes to St. Marcella that St. Lea, a woman of austerity, obedience and remarkable penances had died. He described her as “blessed,” emphasizing the woman’s virtues as being worthy of heaven. Jerome provides no biography for Lea, for he assumes that Marcella knows Lea, and concentrates instead upon her virtues.
Jerome draws a parallel with parable of Lazarus and Dives:
|“||Who will praise the blessed Lea as she deserves? She renounced painting her face and adorning her head with shining pearls. She exchanged her rich attire for sackcloth, and ceased to command others in order to obey all. She dwelt in a corner with a few bits of furniture; she spent her nights in prayer, and instructed her companions through her example rather than through protests and speeches. And she looked forward to her arrival in heaven in order to receive her recompense for the virtues which she practiced on earth.||”|
Jerome's use of the adjective "blessed" is taken as sufficient evidence for Lea's veneration by the Roman Catholic Church, where her feast day is March 22.
The name Lea is likely a derivation of Leah coming from a Hebrew word meaning "weary"; or from a Chaldean name meaning "mistress" or "ruler" in Akkadian. In Genesis 29, Leah is seen as being Jacob's first wife and the mother of seven of his children.
- Commire, Anne, ed. (2002). "Lea, St. (d. about 383)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin Publications. ISBN 0-7876-4074-3. (subscription required (. ))
- "Saint Lea of Rome, The Newman Connection". Newmanconnection.com. 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2013-05-01.
- "St. Lea". Catholic News Agency. Catholicnewsagency.com. 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2013-05-01.
- "Behind The Name". Behindthename.com.
- "Bible Gateway".