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The Cantankerous St. Jerome

September 30, 2014


On September 30th, the Church celebrates the witness of St. Jerome, priest, scholar and Doctor of the Church. Saint Jerome lived in the 4th century AD. 

Saint Jerome was gifted with a brilliant mind that he surrendered to Christ. He allowed the Lord Jesus to use his intellectual gifts to further the mission of the Church. His greatest intellectual legacy is his Latin translation of the Bible. This translation allowed many people to read, study and listen to the Scriptures in a language that they could understand. It might be difficult for us to imagine that Latin used to be a common language, rather than something archaic, but when Jerome translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin his goal was to make the Bible as accessible as possible to the culture of his time.

His translation of the Sacred Scriptures would serve as the Church’s common and standard edition of the Bible in Western Culture for many centuries.

Saint Jerome also embraced a life of heroic asceticism. He would accept only those material things that were required to fulfill his mission as a disciple, and he used what remained of his resources to help the poor and the needy.

There is another quality of St. Jerome’s character that will console many of us who struggle to be virtuous and holy, a quality which surprises many whose image of sanctity lacks a sense of how Christ’s holiness transforms human character. Jerome was known for being a cantankerous fellow. He struggled at times with the virtue of patience, could be overbearing with those who disagreed with him, and had a reputation for being cranky. One commentator on Saint Jerome’s life noted that perhaps Jerome chose to be a hermit, not so much as a heroic act of sacrifice, but because had he not lived alone, he most assuredly would not have been a saint! 

The spiritual lesson for us in this might be to remember that saints are not born with perfect characters and that even the holiest among us has become that way over time. This means that saints have shared with us all the qualities and weaknesses that vex us. However, flaws in character did not assuage them from seeking to know Christ and to live in such a way that their relationship with him was evident in their way of life. 

Therefore we should never believe that our weaknesses be justified as an excuse that exempts us from living as disciples of the Lord Jesus. The saints know their weaknesses and can readily admit them, but they also accept them as opportunities to for conversion and humility. 

May Saint Jerome intercede for us and teach us to appreciate and reverence the wisdom of Christ revealed in the Scriptures and inspired by his witness. May we also remember that if God can make a cantankerous fellow like Jerome a saint, there is hope for all of us as well!