Monday, October 19, 2015

Why St. Jerome Gives Me Hope

Thank God I am deemed worthy to be hated by the world...
- St. Jerome

Many Catholics are aware of the great St. Jerome, the man who crafted the first Latin edition of the Sacred Scriptures. But most Catholics are unaware that St. Jerome was....well....a bit of a jerk. In fact, some have nicknamed him the "Patron Saint of Grumpiness" or the "Patron Saint of Curmudgeons." This gives me great hope, as I struggle from day to day with having to force myself to be cheerful around people that drive me crazy or situations that try my patience.

He also struggled with lust, which all of us deal with. Fr. Mitch Pacwa often recalled how St. Jerome made a promise to himself that whenever he found himself struggling with lustful thoughts that he'd dive into his Hebrew lessons.

Giggles arise when Fr. Mitch then reveals how St. Jerome became the Church's foremost expert in Hebrew, alluding to the fact that St. Jerome struggled with a LOT of lustful thoughts!

He detested one of his contemporaries, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the Church's most beloved saints! Argued with him, made fun of him in letters; he even accused Augustine of plagiarism! St. Jerome was a jerk.

From Fr. Dwight Longenecker, we get this summary of St. Jerome, the cranky old man:

"Jerome was kind of like the Michael Voris of his age. He attacked just about everybody for anything. He was at heart an extremist, a radical ascetic and a recluse...Jerome’s style was caustic, sarcastic and harsh so he made lots of enemies. They returned the attacks, gossiping about his relationship with the holy women who surrounded him, mocking his [walk], his smile, and his accomplishments..."

AmericanCatholic.org recalls that St. Jerome was known for having a bad temper. Butler's Lives of the Saints recalls, "[St. Jerome] was, as someone has said, no admirer of moderation whether in virtue or against evil. He was swift to anger, but also swift to feel remorse, even more severe on his own shortcomings than on those of others. A pope is said to have remarked, on seeing a picture of Jerome striking his breast with a stone, 'You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you'."

Pope Benedict XV, in his encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus mentions St. Jerome a lot, and what he listed as Jerome's "qualities" would be very unpopular today, like how Jerome "never failed to lash with biting tongue any looseness in morals...How terribly he upbraids men who have degraded the dignity of the priesthood! With what vigor he inveighs against the pagan morals then infecting Rome!" (SP, 61).

I can definitely see similarities between St. Jerome and my crappy attitude; also in the ways he spends his time. How many days have I wasted writing in this stupid blog! Postumianus writes of St. Jerome, "He is wholly occupied in reading and with books; he rests neither day nor night; he is always either reading or writing something." As long as I don't have the television on, this is how I'd rather spend my time. And I enjoy the Sacred Scriptures; his Latin version became the definitive edition of the Church for over 1,000 years! His relics, once interred in the cave where he lived the life of a hermit in his later years, are now interred in the Mother Church of the West, in St. Mary Major's, next to the actual crib of our Lord! This cranky, accusation-throwing, sarcastic jerk has been referred to by Pope Benedict XV as "the Greatest Doctor of the Church". How much hope I have then that if this man has been blessed with eternal life in Christ, that perhaps I have some hope of reaching that eternal reward, as well.

St. Jerome famously said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." May he guide all of us as we contemplate the great mysteries of Scripture, which the Church teaches can give us that peace we're searching for. May our love of Scripture no longer contribute to our divisions, but may it be a source of unity. Pope Benedict XV writes, "May Jerome, who so loved God's Church and so strenuously defended it against its enemies, win for us the removal of every element of discord, in accordance with Christ's prayer, so that there may be 'one fold and one shepherd.'"

Obviously, none of this means that it's ok to be a jerk. I wish I was much more pleasant, especially around people who disagree with me or the Church, but I'll need all the grace the Lord can give in order to improve upon that! I can see why, after years of grinding his teeth, St. Jerome left to live in a cave in Bethlehem the rest of his life. Sometimes the only way to avoid the occasion of sin is to do something drastic.

St. Jerome - Scripture scholar, writer, theologian, Greatest Doctor of the Church, and cranky curmudgeon - pray for me, a sinner!