Lent Day 8 // Saint Jerome

Image by Beautiful Light Photography

Image by Beautiful Light Photography

Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray; 

 we have turned every one to his own way; 

And the Lord has laid on him

 the iniquity of us all

Matthew 11:28-30 

“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take

my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. 

Did you know there are over 10,000 Catholic saints? 

There isn’t a definitive number; no one is actually counting. 

But if we were, there would be more than 10,000. 

All those people who loved God more than anything! Which isn’t to say that they didn’t sin. In fact, many of the saints had such excruciating awareness of their sin that they took to extreme forms of aesthetics and mortification. 

St. Rose of Lima comes to mind. At a young age she fashioned a crown of thorns. Later, when her confessor instructor asked her to quit whipping herself with chains, she fashioned it tightly around her waist and threw away the key. 

Surely there is a special kind of grace God gives those he calls so young. And most definitely this is not the kind of “get up after you fall and run to confession” that we are talking about when we look at the third station of the cross.

The penance your confessor gives you is enough - no need to wrap yourself in chains and wear a crown of thorns. A more relatable example of picking ourselves up after we sin might be St. Jerome, a Church father and Doctor. He was

“one of the most learned, most difficult, most restless and combative of all the saints.”

He was born in 342 to a Christian father who made sure that he provided a good education at home for his son. He later sent Jerome (at the time, Eusebius) to Rome to further his education under the pagan instructors. 

For a time, Jerome forgot his piety, adopted the worldly ideas he was surrounded by and did little to exercise any self control with respect to his worldly pleasures. Still, in 360 he was baptized by Pope Liberius. And from there he just seems to grow in intellect in piety. He’s famous for giving us the original Vulgate, and for his many commentaries on the scripture. 

He wrote letters, too. It’s the letters that give us crystal clear inside into Butler’s earlier observance about the good St. Jerome who, it turns out, had a rather biting pen. So biting that one pope, commenting on a picture of St. Jerome beating his chest with a rock,

“You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you.” 

Of St. Blesilla’s decision to abandon Roman society, he defended her thus:

“those who paint their cheeks with rouge and their eyelids with antimony; whose

plastered faces, too white to be human, look like idols, and if they forget and

shed a tear it makes a furrow as it rolls down the painted cheek; who...enamel a

lost youth o the wrinkles of age, and affect a maidenly timidity in the midst of a

troupe of grandchildren.” 

It’s easy to see how he might of offended! Or consider what he wrote about priests (he himself ordained, but with the desire to be a monk and not a priest): 

“The only thing they worry about is their clothes - you would think they were

bridegrooms rather than clerics; and their one concern is to know about the

names, the houses and the activities of rich women.” 

And he could get downright nasty when he set about to make more personal insults. He said about a particular man,

“If he would conceal his nose and and keep his mouth shut, he might be taken for both handsome and learned.” 

St. Jerome, arguably one of the most learned and wisest of Church history was far from perfect. And, just as we are able to see and judge his actions, Jerome was intensely aware of his own inadequacies. He wasn’t a moderate man - in virtue or against evil. And while he was quick to anger (especially for righteousness sake), and perhaps too quick with a sharp pen, he was quick to repentance, too.

And if he was severe towards others and their failings, how much more severe he was on himself. 

And when Rome was sacked in the year 404, Jerome put aside the Ezekiel commentary he was working on, and nearly almost all study.

“For today we must translate the precepts of the scripture into deeds; instead of speaking saintly words, we must act them.” 

St. Jerome knew, indeed, the meaning of our Lord’s words when he told us

“my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

He loved Our Lord vehemently and was sometimes too quick to point it out. But he loved Our Lord vehemently and was quick to repent of his temper. 

For reflection: 

We’re still pondering the Third Station of the Cross - that Jesus fell under the weight of our sin. In his humbleness, he demonstrated that we might too get up after our fall and continue. St. Jerome, a doctor of the Church, knew this better than perhaps any other saint that we have been given as an example.

Do you, like St. Jerome, find yourself practicing the same vice over and over and over? 

Ask God for the grace to help you replace that vice by practicing it’s opposite virtue.