St. Jerome: Father and Doctor of the Church
Today, September 30, is the feast of St. Jerome, a Father and Doctor of the Church. Translator of the Bible into its official Latin version (the Vulgate), brilliant scholar, monk, traveller, teacher, letter writer, and consultant to Popes and Bishops, St.Jerome is one of the most important figures in the history of the Church.
St. Jerome was born in Dalmatia (near Aquileia, north of Rome) around 340 to a wealthy Christian family. At the age of 20, Jerome 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 travelled 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.
Saint Jerome is the patron saint of archaeologists, archivists, Bible scholars, librarians, libraries, schoolchildren, students, and translators.
Quotes from St. Jerome:
“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.”
“In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the scorching sun so that it frightens even the monks that inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. In exile and prison to which for the fear of hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, I many times imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them: in my cold body and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion able to live. Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was.”
— Saint Jerome’s letter to Saint Eustochium
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.