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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Marcellina, Saint

Only sister of St. Ambrose of Milan, b. about 330-335; d. about 398

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.

Marcellina, Saint, only sister of St. Ambrose of Milan, b. about 330-5; d. about 398. She was older than St. Ambrose, and was born most probably at Trier, where her father resided as praefectus praetorio Galliarum. Even before her father's death she went to Rome, the home of her family, and, before her mother's arrival at the capital with her two sons, had already forsaken the world, elected to live a life of Christian virginity, and devoted herself to the practices of piety and asceticism. On Christmas Day probably in 353, she received the veil of consecrated virginity from the hand of Pope Liberius. The advice, which the pope addressed to her on this occasion, has been preserved by St. Ambrose (De virginibus, III, i-iii), especially emphasized being the obligations of Christian virgins to preserve virginal purity. After Ambrose had become Bishop of Milan (374), he summoned his sister thither, and found in her a zealous assistant in fostering and extending the ascetic life among the maidens of Milan. To her Ambrose dedicated his work on virginity, written in 377 ("Libri III de virginibus ad Marcellinam" in P.L., XVI, 187-232). Marcellina survived her brother, and died in 398 or shortly afterwards. She also was buried in the crypt under the altar of the Ambrosian Basilica, and was honored as a saint. Her feast is celebrated on July 17.


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"Approaching, do not come with your palms stretched flat nor with fingers separated. But making your left hand a seat for your right, and hollowing your palm, receive the Body of Christ, responding Amen. And having with care hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, take it, vigilant lest you drop any of it."
-- Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church, Saint; on the proper technique for receiving Holy Communion in the hand (circa A.D. 347).


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