Founder of the First Hospital in Rome
d. 400 A.D.
This woman was noted for her wealth or learning, but she was wondrously rich in good deeds. She lived in a city of luxury and magnificence, which had also the terrible contrasts of want and squalor. The rich who had money to spend for the people provided licentious amusements, with occasional ostentatious distributions of grain.
Fabiola gave herself untiringly to ministration among the suffering. She dressed wounds and sores which other would not or could not touch. No service was too lowly. She had caught the spirit and walked in the steps of her Lord.
It should be related also of her that her first husband was a heathen, and a licentious man. From him she was divorced and married another. After the death of her second husband, she was told that her second marriage, though legal, was contrary to the teachings of Christ. For this, she showed the deepest penitence, and it may have been this in part which led her to forsake the world and devote her remaining years to works of charity and philanthropy.
Toward the close of her life she gathered together what little remained of her property, and, uniting it with that of the son-in-law of her friend Paula, they erected a hospital. In this she died in the year 400 [A.D.].
Jerome, in celebrating her virtues, declared that “she was the praise of the Christians, the wonder of the Gentiles, the mourning if the poor, and the consolation of the monks.”
As soon as the early Christians were free to practice their religion openly, they began to build charitable institutions, asylums for infants and orphans, hospitals for the sick, and retreats for strangers, especially pilgrims.
The hospitals of the early Church were divided according to sex. The male portion was placed under the charge of a deacon, and the women under the charge of a deaconesses. Deacon and deaconesses went out and sought for the sick of all classes, and brought them to the hospitals.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.