December 17: St. Olympias
This saint was born around the year 361. She belonged to a great family of Constantinople. When she was left an orphan, she was given into the care of a wonderful Christian woman. Olympias had inherited a large fortune and was both sweet and attractive. So her uncle found it easy to marry her to Nebridius, a man who had been governor of Constantinople. St. Gregory Nazianzen apologized for not being able to attend the wedding. He even sent a poem full of good advice for Olympias.
Nebridius died very soon afterward, however, and the emperor urged Olympias to marry again. She answered: "Had God wished me to remain a wife, he would not have taken Nebridius away." And she refused to marry again. St. Gregory called her "the glory of the widows in the Eastern Church." With a number of other pious ladies, Olympias spent her life performing works of charity. She dressed plainly and prayed much. She gave her money away to everyone. Finally, St. John Chrysostom had to tell her to be careful in giving away her goods. "You must not encourage the laziness of those who live upon you without necessity," he said. "It is like throwing your money into the sea."
St. John Chrysostom became archbishop of Constantinople. As their archbishop, he guided St. Olympias and her disciples in their works. The women started a home for orphans and they opened a chapel. They were able to give help to great numbers of people. St. John Chrysostom became Olympias' dearest guide. When he was exiled, she was deeply grieved. She then had to suffer persecution, too. Her community of widows and single women was forced to stop their charitable works. Besides this, Olympias was in poor health and was being criticized. Yet St. John wrote to her: "I cannot stop calling you blessed. The patience and dignity with which you have borne your sorrows, your prudence, wisdom and charity have won you great glory and reward."
St. Olympias died in 408, when she was about forty. Someone described her as "a wonderful woman, like a precious vase filled with the Holy Spirit."
The generosity of St. Olympias touched the lives of many people. How might I become more giving to those around me today?