SAINT JEROME (c.347-420), priest and Doctor of the Church – Patron saint of Bible scholars, translators, archaeologists and librarians
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Jerome, renowned for his extraordinary depth of learning and translations of the different Books of the Bible into Latin, in addition to his incisive commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures.
Born about the year 347 in present-day Croatia, Jerome received his Christian instruction from his father, who sent him to Rome about the year 360 for instruction in rhetoric and classical literature. It was while he was in Rome that Jerome was baptized and began his studies in theology.
Later, seeking a life more akin to the first generation of “desert fathers”, he lived an ascetical life in the desert near Antioch. He was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Antioch and, about the year 380, traveled to Constantinople where a friendship began between himself and St. Gregory of Nazianzus.
Rejecting pagan literature as a distraction, Jerome undertook to learn Hebrew from a Christian monk who had converted from Judaism. Somewhat unusual for a 4th century Christian priest, he also studied with Jewish rabbis, striving to maintain the connection between Hebrew language and culture, and the emerging world of Greek and Latin-speaking Christianity.
Jerome became a secretary to Pope Damasus I, who commissioned him to write the Vulgate (Latin Bible). Jerome spent 23 years translating the Hebrew Bible, as well as those Books written in Greek, into its authoritative Latin version. His harsh temperament and biting criticisms of his intellectual opponents made him many enemies in the Church and in Rome, ultimately forcing him to leave the city.
Jerome went to Bethlehem in the year 386, where he established a monastery, and lived the rest of his years in study, prayer, and asceticism, continuing his translation of the Bible. He also remained engaged both as an arbitrator and disputant of controversies in the Church, and served as a spiritual father to a group of nuns who had become his disciples while he was in Rome.
Monks and pilgrims from a wide array of nations and cultures also found their way to his monastery, where he commented that “as many different choirs chant the psalms as there are nations.”
In addition to the Vulgate translation, Saint Jerome is also renowned for his detailed and insightful commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures.
After living through both Barbarian invasions of the Roman empire, and a resurgence of riots sparked by doctrinal disputes within the Church, Saint Jerome died in his Bethlehem monastery in the year 420. His remains are interred in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, Italy.
We commemorate his feastday on September 30.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Jerome)
“Father, You gave Saint Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May Your people find in Your Word the food of salvation and the fountain of life.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”