The Feast of St. Jerome is September 30th
One of the original four Doctors of The Church, Saint Jerome is considered to be the most scholarly among them, and as a theologian, second only to Saint Augustine. In addition to being a mystic and healer, he also promoted and practiced aestheticism by living for some time in a cave. Oh yea, he also was a profound rhetorician, staunchly defending the Church against the Arian and Pelagian heresies of the fourth and fifth centuries, arguing for the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the doctrine of original sin. One more thing: In his spare time he translated the Bible from its original languages, by learning Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and the language of the Chaldeans (when it was discovered that Daniel, Esdras, and parts of Jeremiah and Job were originally composed in that Aramaic tongue).
So.....for what one thing is this amazing saint, scholar and theologian - who literally defined the word "canonical" - most remembered? His bad temper! It is said that his fits of rage were so severe that the words pouring forth from his lips could peel the paint off the doors of the Cathedral in Constantinople! One medieval pope remarked, upon seeing a picture of Jerome striking his breast with a stone, "You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you" (Butler's Lives of the Saints). Indeed, Jerome was able to control this sin, as well as the tormenting sins of the flesh, only through great penance, fasting and mortification. In his own words:
"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 be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. In this 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 was still able to live! Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and only 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" (Letter to St. Eustochium).
I presume that last sentence refers to the toll that a life of penance exacted upon his health, but I would not be surprised if he weren't also pining for the "spiritually stronger days" of his youth. You see, that's the way Saint Jerome rolled. He was brutally honest with God and his fellow men. To state that he struggled between what he wanted to do, and what God required of him, would be to describe one of the hallmarks of this remarkable man.
The life and legacy of St. Jerome is a great comfort to me. When I am discouraged or feel unworthy of divine mercy, it is Jerome who reminds me that indeed, nothing within me merits God's love. Only God's gift of faith, and through cooperation with His grace, can I hope to someday be with my Lord. He also reminds me that my struggles with sin really ARE battles; not merely philosophical exercises or attempts at redirecting my desires. In the end it's what I DO, not what I feel like doing that matters most.
His feast day, in the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran Churches, is September 30th. You might want to read more about this incredible saint, or perhaps - for an enjoyable few minutes - listen on You Tube to a wonderful blues song composed by Dion DiMucci (yes of Dion and the Belmonts fame) aptly titled "The Thunderer"© *, and based on this poem by Phyllis McGinley:
God’s angry man, His crotchety scholar,
Was Saint Jerome, the great name-caller;
Who cared not a dime for the laws of libel.
(And in his spare time translated the Bible.)
Quick to disparage all joys but learning,
Jerome thought marriage better than burning;
But didn’t like woman’s painted cheeks;
Didn’t like Romans, didn’t like Greeks.
Hated Pagans for their Pagan ways,
Yet doted on Cicero all of his days.
Saint Jerome: The Thunderer.
A born reformer, cross and gifted,
He scolded mankind sterner than Swift did;
Worked to save the world from the heathen;
Fled to a cave for peace to breathe in,
Promptly wherewith for miles around
He filled the air with fury and sound.
In a mighty prose for Almighty ends
He thrust at his foes, quarreled with his friends,
And served his Master, though with complaint.
(He wasn’t a plaster sort of a saint.)
Saint Jerome: The Thunderer.
But he swelled men’s minds with Christian leaven.
It takes all kinds to make a heaven.
Dion also adds the following loosely translated quotes from Jerome:
"Can't get to heaven by just being nice - Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ"
"Love without Truth is just sentimental - Truth without Love is sterile"
So just in case there are any other "crotchety" old souls at Holy Trinity besides me, I have good news. There's hope for us yet in Jesus Christ ☺. (Saint Jerome, Pray for us)
* click the link to go to You Tube on a new tab, and hear the song.