Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. K. Bartels

9/30/2009 (6 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Let us, with St. Jerome, embrace the Catholic Church as a guiding, guarding and nurturing mother whose concern is that we receive truth.

St. Jerome died in 420, but his profound influence still works among us.

St. Jerome died in 420, but his profound influence still works among us.


By F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (

9/30/2009 (6 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

GLADE PARK, Colorado (Catholic Online) - St. Jerome is one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church, and is perhaps best known for his translation of the Hebrew books of the Bible into Latin, termed as the Vulgate. During the turn of the century (391-406), St. Jerome brought this most productive work to fruition, and, as a result, Latin became the language of the Church. Up until 1979, when Pope John Paul II issued the Nova Vulgata, the Vulgate was the official Latin Bible of the Catholic Church.

St. Jerome was born into a Christian family, most likely in 342. At a young age, he was sent to Rome for his education and studied the classical authors, from which he developed a love for literature; at about the age of thirty, he spent five years as a monk in the desert of Calcis. He was ordained a priest in the East by Bishop Paulinus, and became the secretary of Pope Damasus. St. Jerome did not actively exercise his priestly office, instead preferring to remain a monk and scholar. As the Holy Spirit led him into deeper love for Christ, he directed his love for literature toward an intense study of Scripture.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ" - St. Jerome

While he is most frequently remembered for his Vulgate, St. Jerome was a prolific writer, and wrote many commentaries on Scripture. His whole life became focused on the Word, seeking truth, and defending that truth. Through his life of prayer, St. Jerome grew wise and insightful, gifts which he shared in his writings. In St. Jerome's famous letter to St. Eustochium (letter 22), he shows his understanding of the true value of voluntary celibacy and consecrated virginity as a self-giving act directed at obtaining the highest love: "How very difficult it is for the human heart not to love something! Of necessity, our minds and wills must be drawn to some kind of affection. Carnal love is overcome by spiritual love. Desire is extinguished by deeper desire. Whatever is taken from carnal love is given to the higher love."

As a defender of the Church and her teaching, St. Jerome refuted the objections of Helvidius in regards to the perpetual virginity of Mary. Among such false objections, as are common even today, were those based on scriptural references to "the brothers" of the Lord, the "carpenter's son," and Mary's "firstborn son" (see Mt 13:55; 1:24-25).

St. Jerome responded: "Every only-begotten son is a firstborn son, but not every firstborn is an only-begotten. By firstborn we understand not only one who is succeeded by others, but one who has had no predecessors." In reference to the Lord's "brothers," St. Jerome tells us: "In Holy Scripture there are four kinds of brethren - by nature, race, kindred, love." Certainly we still associate the word "brother" with those same "kinds of brethren" today. St. Jerome explained that, as our holy Church teaches presently, the brothers of Jesus were his cousins and the nephews of the Virgin Mary. Showing both his usual yet wonderful bluntness, which often surfaced due to his love of truth, St. Jerome tells Helvidius: "You neglected the whole range of Scripture and employed your madness in outraging the Virgin."

If we learn nothing else from St. Jerome, let us learn the wise art of obedience to the Church's authority, and, certainly, to the supreme earthly authority of the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ. For St. Jerome frequently showed his reliance on the authority of the pope, as well as the extreme importance of Church teaching for guidance on matters of doctrine.

In an appeal to Pope St. Damasus in order to decide a dispute, St. Jerome wrote: "My words are spoken to the successor of the Fisherman, to the disciple of the Cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the Chair of Peter. For this I know is the rock on which the Church is built. This is the house where alone the Paschal Lamb can be rightly eaten. . . "

St. Jerome, of course, understood that it is within the Catholic Church alone that we receive the true body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ as we receive the Eucharist under the signs of consecrated bread and wine. Yet St. Jerome's understanding of how the "Paschal Lamb can be rightly eaten" was not based on Scripture alone, which, as he knew very well, can lead to error through a misguiided subjective interpretation not informed by Sacred Tradition.

His understanding of the nature of the Eucharist descended from On-High; that is, the truth of the Eucharist descends from Christ to the Church he founded, which is then transmitted to future generations through the apostles and their successors. Therefore St. Jerome arrived at the truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist through not only his intense study of Scripture, but also in combination with Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

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, and may be reached via email at: He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Living Faith

Pope Francis: Jesus is weeping over a WORLD AT WAR

Image of Pope Francis mourns a world at war.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has made it clear, Jesus is weeping over a world at war. It has become obvious that this is a time of extreme danger for all people around the globe. No population is safe from terror. The threats aren't just from terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al ... continue reading

Oxford to begin study of Catholic relics. Here are 5 macabre relics people venerate from around the world Watch

Image of The skull of St. Thomas Aquinas.


The veneration of relics in the Catholic Church has been one of the most debated practices in the faith. While such veneration is actually common in the human experience -even Communists did it with the body of Lenin, the veneration of relics in the Church is the ... continue reading

Nine bishops, one abbot, dine and dialogue with peace activists Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, decided to skip dinner at the downtown Marriott Waterfront hotel, and walked several blocks to an inner city parish to share a simple meal with about 30 peace ... continue reading

Woman turns her cancer over to Jesus Christ - survives, thrives Watch

Image of Heather King shares her struggles in her new memoir,

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

Heather King never cared much for doctors. Los Angeles, CA (CNA) - It's an attitude she partly inherited from her mother, "who classified ginger ale as a medicine, considered Novocain a snobbish extravagance" and somehow managed to avoid a visit to the doctor's office ... continue reading

Top 5 ways to find joy Watch

Image of Find happiness in spite of the darkness.


It is easy to fall prey to depression and sadness with everything that has been going on in the world these days. The trick to maintaining a positive attitude and living in the joy God has for us is as easy as following five simple steps. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent Watch

Image of What millions of Christians do a day after expressing thanks for what they already have.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent. We Christians have gone out of our minds, arguing about Starbucks cups and greeters who (correctly) say "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas." In all the bustle of the season, we have forgotten that Advent ... continue reading

Cardinal Sarah releases new book, 'God or Nothing,' on civilization's fall from grace Watch

Image of Without God, the cardinal said,

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

At the presentation of his new book, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that Western society is rapidly forgetting God, and expressed his desire to help people rediscover him through both prayer and witness. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "I would like to help people ... continue reading

Holy Door in St. Peter's basilica to open for first time in 15 years for Holy Year of Mercy Watch

Image of The rite of the opening of the Holy Door is intended to symbolically illustrate the idea that the Church's faithful are offered an

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Hidden since the Jubilee of 2000, the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica was revealed Tuesday as the brick wall covering it was removed in anticipation of the Holy Year of Mercy launching next month. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the ... continue reading

5 powerful Bible verses you need when fear and terror strike Watch

Image of


Fear is a powerful thing. Fear can completely cripple the body and soul. Since the terrifying Paris terrorist attacks last week the news has been full of death, terrorists, murder and fear. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Those not in power are left wondering ... continue reading

Pope Francis: World War III has begun - Third Secret of Fatima gives warning Watch

Image of Is the Church preparing us for the end? Our Lady calls us to penance.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis has invoked World War III, saying that it has begun in a piecemeal fashion. The Third Secret of Fatima could provide Christians a framework for considering this terrifying new development. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - In condemning the Nov. 13, ... continue reading

All Living Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Advent Wreath Prayer HD
  • 'Domestic terrorism': 5 People shot during Black Lives Matter protest ...
  • French Hostage Situation: Two armed suspects engage in shootout with ...
  • St. Catherine of Alexandria: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, November ...
  • Daily Readings for Wednesday, November 25, 2015
  • 5 unbelievable times children taught us to be better human beings
  • St. John The Apostle HD

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 2:31-45
31 'You have had a vision, Your Majesty; this is what you saw: a statue, ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:57, 58, 59, 60, 61
57 Bless the Lord, all the Lord's creation: praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:5-11
5 When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 24th, 2015 Image

St. Andrew Dung Lac
November 24: Through the missionary efforts of various ... Read More