Saint of the Day – 30 September – St Jerome (347-419) Father and Doctor of the Church – Priest, Confessor, Theologian, Historian, Hermit, Mystic – born Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius also known as Girolamo, Hieronymus, Jerom and the Man of the Bible – (347 at Strido, Dalmatia – 419 of natural causes). His body was interred in Bethlehem and his relics are now enshrined at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, Italy. Patronages – Archeologist, archivists, Scripture scholars, librarians and libraries, schoolchildren; students, translators, Saint-Jérôme, Québec, City of, Saint-Jérôme, Québec, Diocese of, Taos Indian Pueblo. Attributes – • cardinal’s hat, often on the ground or behind him, indicating that he turned his back on the pomp of ecclesiastical life• lion, referring to the lion who befriended him after he pulled a thorn from the creature’s paw• man beating himself in the chest with a stone• aged monk in desert• aged monk with Bible• aged monk writing • old man with a lion• skull• hourglass.
St Jerome was a man of extremes. He lived to age 91 even though he undertook extreme penances. Jerome had a fierce temper but an equally intense love of Christ. This brilliant saint was born in Eastern Europe around 345. His Christian family sent him to Rome at age 12 for a good education. He studied there until he was 20. Then he and his friends lived in a small monastery for three years, until the group dissolved. Jerome set out for Palestine but when he reached Antioch, he fell seriously ill. He dreamed one night that he was taken before the judgment seat of God and condemned for being a heretic. This dream made a deep impression on him.
He is best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin mainly from the Hebrew (the translation that became known as the Vulgate) and his commentaries on the Gospels. His list of writings is extensive. Jerome was strong willed. His writings, especially those opposing what he considered heresy, were sometimes explosive. His temperament helped him do difficult tasks but it also made him enemies. Jerome was named a Doctor of the Church for the Vulgate, his commentaries on Scripture, his writings on monastic life and his belief that during a controversy on theological opinions, the See of Rome was where the matter should be settled.
In order to be able to do such work, Jerome prepared himself well. He was a master of Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Chaldaic. He began his studies at his birthplace, Stridon in Dalmatia. After his preliminary education, he went to Rome, the center of learning at that time and thence to Trier, Germany, where the scholar was very much in evidence. He spent several years in each place, always trying to find the very best teachers. He once served as private secretary to Pope Damasus.
Skilled in the study of languages and exegesis, he laboured for more than 20 years to translate most of the Bible into the Latin language. Jerome’s edition, the Vulgate, is arguably the most influential translation of the Bible. During the Council of Trent (1545–1563), the Vulgate was affirmed as the official text of the Church. He is still considered the Church’s greatest Doctor of Scriptures.
He conferred this praise upon St. Augustine: “As I have done, you applied all your energy to make the enemies of the Church your personal enemies.” This eulogy is consistent with the counsel of St. Augustine: “You must hate the evil, but love the one who errs.”
Regarding St. Jerome the Roman Breviary says: “He pummeled the heretics with his most harsh writings.”
St Jerome was orthodox in his theology and was a defender of historic Christianity. However, his greatest contributions to the faith came in terms of biblical studies and translation.
- Jerome insisted that Bible translations should come from the languages Scripture was originally written in. For example, instead of relying on the popular Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures of the time (the Septuagint), Jerome utilized ancient Hebrew copies that he considered more reliable.
- Jerome believed that Christians should be well grounded in and possess a good knowledge of Scripture. In his commentary on Isaiah, Jerome stated: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
- Jerome modeled and advocated the Christian ascetic and scholarly life. The life of a monk seems well suited for a Bible translator.
After these preparatory studies, he traveled extensively in Palestine, marking each spot of Christ’s life with an outpouring of devotion. Mystic that he was, he spent five years in the desert of Chalcis so that he might give himself up to prayer, penance and study. Finally, he settled in Bethlehem, where he lived in the cave believed to have been the birthplace of Christ. Jerome died in Bethlehem and the remains of his body now lie buried in the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome.
“When the Latin Fathers are represented in a group, Saint Jerome is sometimes in a cardinal’s dress and hat,
although cardinals were not known until three centuries later than his time but as the other Fathers held exalted positions in the Church
and were represented in ecclesiastical costumes and as Saint Jerome held a dignified office in the court of Pope Dalmasius,
it seemed fitting to picture him as a cardinal.
The Venetian painters frequently represented him in a full scarlet robe, with a hood thrown over the head. When thus habited, his symbol was a church in his hand, emblematic of his importance to the universal Church.
Saint Jerome is also seen as a penitent, or again, with a book and pen, attended by a lion.
As a penitent, he is a wretched old man, scantily clothed, with a bald head and neglected beard, a most unattractive figure.
When he is represented as translating the Scriptures, he is in a cell or a cave, clothed in a sombre coloured robe and is writing, or gazing upward for inspiration. In a few instances, an angel is dictating to him. – from Saints in Art, by Clara Irskine Clement