Saint Marcella was born in Rome in the year 325. The daughter of Albina, an educated and wealthy woman, she emulated her mother in both piety and benevolence.
Because of her wealth and beauty, Marcella was part of fashionable Roman society. At a young age, she married an equally wealthy aristocrat who died only seven months later. Rather than re-marry, Marcella chose the life of a widow, devoting herself to charity, prayer, and a life of poverty and service.
Rather than beautiful dresses of the latest fashion, she decided to wear a coarse brown garment. Her hair was of a simple style, and she wore no makeup. A community of women formed, known as the brown dress society. They spent their time in praying, Biblical studies, singing, and serving the needy. Marcella’s once palatial home became a refuge for the poor.
Saint Jerome came to Rome in 382 and lodged at Marcella’s “hospitality house”, which Jerome referred to as her domestic church. There, with Marcella’s assistance, he spent three years on a Latin translation of the Bible. He held Marcella in high regard, recognizing her Christian devotion and scholarship, as well as her vast knowledge. Jerome became the spiritual guide of Marcella’s Brown Dress Community. She, on the other hand, helped Saint Jerome control his legendary temper and intervened when quarrels with his opponents threatened to escalate.
In the year 410, Visigoths invaded Rome and brutally attacked Marcella in her residence. She was scourged, beaten and suffered other tortures for riches she no longer had. Marcella and her pupil, Principia, were taken to the church of St. Paul where Marcella died the following day.
Saint Marcella, widow, and martyr, is revered for her contribution to early monasticism and her sacrifice of riches to the poor and needy.