September 30, 2015

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Jerome — Father and Doctor of the Church.

St. Jerome with lion: According to legend,
a lion came into Jerome’s monastery.
All fled save Jerome. Rather than attack,
the lion lifted its paw to reveal a thorn.
Jerome removed the thorn and tended the
animal back to health. The lion remained
subservient to Jerome and the brethren.
Saint Jerome, one of the four original Western doctors of the Church, is perhaps best known for translating the Bible from Greek (the Septuagint) into Latin (the Vulgate). A remarkable scholar and a sometimes prickly man, Saint Jerome nevertheless believed deeply in the mercy of Christ.

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
                       — St. Jerome      

One of the greatest Biblical scholars of Christendom, Saint Jerome was born of Christian parents at Stridon in Dalmatia around the year 345. Educated at the local school, he then studied rhetoric in Rome for eight years, before returning to Aquilea to set up a community of ascetics. When that community broke up after three years Jerome went to the east. He met an old hermit named Malchus, who inspired the saint to live in a bare cell, dressed in sackcloth, studying the Scriptures.

Click here for fifteen fast facts about St. Jerome

He learned Hebrew from a rabbi. Then he returned to Antioch and was reluctantly ordained priest. With his bishop he visited Constantinople and became friendly with Saints Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa. And then in 382 he went again to Rome, to become the personal secretary of Pope Damasus. Here he met his dearest friends, a wealthy woman called Paula, her daughter Eustochium and another wealthy woman named Marcella.

Here too he began his finest work. Commissioned by the pope, he began to revise the Latin version of the psalms and the New Testament, with immense care and scholarship. Jerome eventually translated the whole of the Bible into the Latin version which is known as the Vulgate. But when Damasus died, his enemies forced the saint to leave Rome.

Accompanied by Paula and Eustochium, Jerome went to Bethlehem. There he lived for thirty-four years till his death in 420, building a monastery over which he presided and a convent headed first by Paula and after her death by Eustochium. The saint set up a hospice for the countless pilgrims to that place. His scholarship, his polemics, his treatises and letters often provoked anger and always stimulated those who read them. 'Plato located the soul of man in the head,' he wrote, 'Christ located it in the heart.'

Excerpted from A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley

Prayer of Saint 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. Amen.

(St. Jerome is the patron saint of: Archeologists; archivists; Bible scholars; librarians; libraries; schoolchildren; students; translators.)

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