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MEMORIAL OF SAINT JEROME, PRIEST AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH, SEPTEMBER 30, 2022



A reading of the holy Gospel according to Lk 10:13-16

Jesus said to them, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, 'Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.' Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."


REFLECTION

"Woe to you"


St Jerome is a Doctor of the Church. He is known for translating the Bible from Greek to Latin in what came to be known as the Vulgate. He is the patron saint of translators, librarians and compilers of encyclopedias.


He was born late in AD 347 or early 348 in Stridom Dalmatia (now Croatia), a narrow section of land on the east side of the Adriatic Sea. One of the churches in Croatia have above the front door his quote: "The town is a prison to me but solitude is paradise."


His parents were most likely well to do and they sent their son to Rome, Italy to further his education. It was there that he learned Latin. Besides excelling in his studies, he likewise experienced the worldly pleasures of Rome, especially the promiscuous women of the city. Because of profound guilt, he spent time in the Roman catacombs and crypts repenting.


He converted to Christianity in AD 366 being baptized by Pope Liberius. In 370 he lived and studied in a monastery near Venice, Italy under Rufinus who was famous for his translation of Greek works into Latin. St Jerome learned several major languages, translating books for his own use.


He lived in and near Antioch and the Syrian desert for an extended stay. He became ill and had a vision and made him even more religious. It was while he was in Antioch that he improved his knowledge of Greek. He travelled with a huge library of books. He lived an ascetic life for several years in the desert south of Antioch. He spent several years living as a hermit in the desert. There were many hermits who lived in the desert caves in complete isolation from the temptations of the world. During his stay in the Syrian desert, Jerome continued working on his knowledge of Greek, Chaldaic, and Hebrew.


As a student he had accumulated pagan books but now his emphasis were Christian books. He established the papal library in Rome and when he travelled to Bethlehem, he spent the last three decades of his life translating the Scriptures.


He was a penitent solitary figure living and reading in the desert. He lived in the desert maybe five years, returning to Antioch and eventually to Rome. He was ordained a priest and lived through the period of Arianism, which taught that Jesus is not equal to God the Father, but subordinate to Him. Pope Damasus would have a major effect on the life of Jerome. As secretary to the Pope, he helped interpret difficult points of Scripture and revised the Latin text of the Gospel according to the original Greek. He mastered Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic and Latin and had the stamina, learning and motivation to do this work. He revised and retranslated the whole Bible, spending 30 years in doing. In working on this he annoyed many people. Some disliked his disdain for the authority of the ancients. Others were annoyed by his arrogance.


St Jerome had a temper. And he fought back against those who objected to his work. He particularly annoyed the Roman clergy and openly criticized them for their hypocrisy, avarice, gluttony and greed and even their effeminacy. He championed virginity over marriage and the monastic life to civilian life. A group of women followed him.


Jerome went back to Antioch with his followers and traveled to Egypt and the Holy Land. One of the wealthy ladies who followed Jerome helped build a monastery in Bethlehem. Returning to the Syrian desert, Jerome resumed his life of penitence. And his many books made it to the desert where he continued his translation of the Bible.


Eventually he settled in Bethlehem near the Church of the Nativity. Traditionally underneath the Church of St Catherine in Bethlehem, there were caves or large spaces with windows, and St Jerome spent thirty years there translating the Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. His research encompassed visiting the many sites mentioned in the Bible and investigating the names of places and the actual place where events took place. Jerome worked with the Hebrew and Greek Bible in his translation.


St Jerome is best known as the translator of the Bible. The Church needed a a standard version for all to use, eliminating many local versions. There were many variations some with poor translations, ignorant scholars and inaccurate copying by careless writers. Because of his knowledge of Greek and Hebrew he was able to collate the different versions of the Bible with the original.


He was hard to get along with. He had a habit of alienating those who were close to him. Most of this was because of his "tempestuous temper". And with this temper came many enemies. When his protector Pope Damasus died in 384 Jerome's enemies spread rumors about his relationships to these women.


St Jerome died September 30, 420 AD in Bethlehem. He was buried under the Church of the Nativity. His body eventually was taken to Rome and interred in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.


He is a Doctor of the Church and is depicted with the symbol of angels and a lion.


From the same cave system in which Jesus was born, St. Jerome said:


“Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.”


PONDER

Do I follow the proven path, or do I enjoy breaking new ground and going my own way?


PRAY

Ask God to enlighten our minds and our hearts to help us imitate the faith of the saints.


God Bless You


*St Jerome: An illustrated Biography, kindle version, Kevin McCarthy.






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