Saint Jerome: Priest and Doctor, Father of Biblical Science
St. Jerome was intimately familiar with the importance of the Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Church. Remove any of them and truth is threatened in its integrity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the relationship: "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others" (CCC, 95).
Speaking to the errors of a stubbornly subjective Scripture interpretation, a disturbing and widespread aspect of contemporary Christianity, St. Jerome, in his usual style of telling it as he sees it, had this to say: "The art of interpreting the Scriptures is the only one of which all men everywhere claim to be the masters . . . The chatty old woman, the doting old man, and the worldly sophist, one and all, take in hand the Scriptures, rend them in pieces and teach them before they have learned them . . . They do not deign to notice what the prophets and apostles have intended, but they adapt conflicting passages to suit their own meaning as if it were a grand way of teaching – and not rather the faultiest of all – to misrepresent a writer’s views and to force the Scriptures reluctantly to do their will . . . " (Fr. Christopher Rengers, The 33 Doctors of the Church, p. 97).
Let us, with St. Jerome, embrace the Catholic Church as a guiding, guarding and nurturing mother whose concern is that we receive truth; a truth she speaks in her ancient words which flow from the unfathomable light of the Holy Spirit. For without truth life becomes little more than a drab and meaningless existence, where we labor away the days and years with little fruit, unaware of our greater purpose, blind to the reality God has set before us, separated from the true beauty of living a life in Christ crucified.
The Church, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth," faithfully guards "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." she guards the memory of Christ’s words; it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles’ confession of faith. As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith" (CCC, 171).
There can be no doubt that during those years spent searching the Scriptures, living an ascetic life, immersed in constant prayer and reaching for God on-high that St. Jerome’s awareness of the reality of sin and man’s judgment became refined and polished: "Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, the dreadful trumpet of the last day seems always sounding in my ears: ‘Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment!’" (attributed to St. Jerome by Rev. Alban Butler).
St. Jerome died in 420, but his profound influence still works among us. In his encyclical, "Spiritus Paraclitus," Pope Benedict XV says of St. Jerome: "His voice is not still, though at one time the whole Catholic world listened to it when it echoed from the desert; yet Jerome still speaks in his writings, which ‘shine like lamps throughout the world.’ Jerome still calls to us."
F. K. Bartels operates catholicpathways.com, and may be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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