Doctor of the Church
Saint Jerome, born in Dalmatia in 329, was sent to school in Rome. His boyhood was not free from faults; his thirst for knowledge was excessive, and his love of books, a passion. He had studied under the best masters, visited foreign cities, and devoted himself to the pursuit of learning. But Christ had need of his strong will and active intellect for the service of His Church. He told him in a supernatural experience he never forgot that he was not a Christian, but a Ciceronian: Your heart is where your treasure is, said the Lord to him — that is, in the eloquent writings of antique times. Saint Jerome obeyed the divine call, making a vow never again to read profane works, and another of celibacy. In Rome he had already assisted a number of holy women to organize houses of retirement where they consecrated themselves to God by vow. Calumnies, arising from jealousy, made a certain headway against the scholar whose competence was beginning to attract honors.
He fled from Rome to the wild Syrian desert, and there for four years learned in solitude, intense sufferings and persecution from the demons, new lessons in humility, penance and prayer, and divine wisdom. I was very foolish to want to sing the hymns of the Lord on foreign soil, and to abandon the mountain of Sinai to beg help from Egypt, he declared.
Pope Damasus summoned him back to Rome, and there assigned to the famous scholar, already expert in Hebrew and other ancient languages, the task of revising the Latin Bible. Saint Jerome obeyed his earthly Head as he had obeyed his Lord. Retiring once more in 386 to Bethlehem, the eloquent hermit sent forth from his solitary cell not only a solidly accurate version of the Scriptures, but during thirty years’ time, a veritable stream of luminous writings for the Christian world. He combated with unfailing efficacy several heresies being subtly introduced by various personages in his own region and elsewhere.
For fourteen years the hand of the great scholar could no longer write; but Saint Jerome could still dictate to six secretaries at a time, to each on a different subject, in those final years. He died in his beloved Bethlehem in 420, when over 80 years old. His tomb is still in a subterranean chapel of its ancient basilica, but his relics were transported to Saint Mary Major Basilica of Rome, where the crib of Bethlehem is conserved.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11