‘Saint Jerome and the Angel’ by Simon Vouet, 1625
Today is the memorial of St. Jerome, translator of the Bible into its official Latin version (the Vulgate), brilliant scholar, monk, traveler, teacher, letter writer, and consultant to Popes and Bishops. He is one of the most important figures in the history of the Church.
St. Jerome was born in Dalmatia around 340-345 AD to a wealthy Christian family. At the age of 20, he was sent to study in Rome, where he became fluent in Latin and Greek and developed a love for the classical writers. Here he acquired many worldly ideas, made little effort to control his pleasure-loving instincts, and lost much of the piety that had been instilled in him at home. He traveled throughout western Europe with a friend but that ceased when he had a conversion experience in Trier and decided to become a monk. He joined a community in Aquileia in 370, where he met some who would become his close friends and others his enemies. When the community disbanded, he decided to go east and he lived for years in the the Syrian desert as a hermit. He studied Hebrew, which he hated, but used it as a distraction against sexual temptations. He was ordained a priest in Antioch and at the age of 40 went to Constantinople, where he met and befriended St. Gregory of Nazianzus (one of the four great Greek Doctors of the Church).
St. Jerome became the secretary of Pope Damasus, who commissioned the Vulgate from him, which took him 30 years to write. His harsh temperament and his biting criticisms of his intellectual opponents made him many enemies in the Church and in Rome and he was forced to leave the city. Jerome went to Bethlehem, established a monastery, and lived the rest of his years in study, prayer, and asceticism. Jerome died at Bethlehem, September 30th, 420. Saint Jerome’s remains are interred in the church of Saint Mary Major at Rome and his relics are in the Sistine chapel of Saint Mary Major in Rome.
Patron: Archeologists; archivists; Bible scholars; librarians; libraries; schoolchildren; students; translators.
Symbols: Cardinal’s hat; lion; aged monk in desert; aged monk with Bible.
Quotes from St. Jerome:
“The Lord who is Truth and says, ‘I am the Truth,’ surrounds us with his truth like a shield to protect us against the stinging darts of the devil. Christ, who is Truth, holds up his shield that the shield of truth may vanquish falsehood and deceit.”
“The measure of our advancement in the spiritual life should be taken from the progress we make in the virtue of mortification; for it should be held as certain that the greater violence we shall do ourselves in mortification, the greater advance we shall make in perfection.”
“I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: ‘Search the Scriptures,’ and ‘Seek and you shall find.’ For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
“So valuable to heaven is the dignity of the human soul that every member of the human race has a guardian angel from the moment the person begins to be.”
Prayer of St. Jerome for Christ’s Mercy
O Lord, show Your mercy to me and gladden my heart. I am like the man on the way to Jericho who was overtaken by robbers, wounded and left for dead. O Good Samaritan, come to my aid. I am like the sheep that went astray. O Good Shepherd, seek me out and bring me home in accord with Your will. Let me dwell in Your house all the days of my life and praise You for ever and ever with those who are there.