Born : Dalmatia (AD 340–AD 420)
Patron: anger management, Bible scholars, and translators
Feast day: September 30
Jerome was a brilliant scholar and linguist who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I to translate the Bible into one language .
The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew, with several books in Greek, and the New Testament was written in Aramaic and Greek. Other than the academicians, the general populace of the Western Roman Empire was literate only in Latin.
Jerome finished his Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Latin Vulgate, in AD 400; it took almost 30 years to complete. Prior to being tasked with this monumental project, Jerome had spent a good part of his life battling his own demons. His Achilles’ heel was his quick temper; if verbal arguments didn’t get him into trouble, his writings did. A genius in his own right, Jerome got so absorbed in his research and work that he became detached from the social world. That’s where most of the contretemps began: He hated distractions while working on an important project, like translating the Bible into Latin.
The archetype of curmudgeons, Jerome didn’t take well to criticism or opposition and wasn’t anyone to tangle with. He responded to comments that he deemed unfair with tirades that would demean any notable adversary.
Even Saint Augustine, who admired Jerome’s high intellect, feared his vitriolic temper. Knowing his own weakness and wanting to remove himself from temptation, Jerome found refuge living like a hermit away from people and avoiding people who annoyed him. He didn’t make excuses for his short temper, but he tried to adapt himself so that others wouldn’t become collateral victims of his wrath. Like an alcoholic who must avoid the bars, Jerome saw the benefit of retreating to his own oasis, where he wouldn’t be tempted to lose his patience or temper.
But Saint Jerome’s most famous letter deals with being a Christian virgin.
Its merits for a woman, he writes, are far above marriage; wedlock only gives women “pregnancy, a crying baby, the tortures of jealousy, the cares of household management and the cutting short by death of all its fancied blessings.”
The legend most associated with the saint concerns a lion. One day Jerome was reading with some monks when a lion entered the study.
Though the lion was lame and limping, the monks were so frightened by the beast that they all ran away. Saint Jerome stayed in the room, and the lion came up to him. The lion lifted its paw into the saint’s hand, showing how it was bleeding from a thorn.
Jerome extracted the thorn and bandaged the paw.
When the lion was able to use its paw, Jerome set it to work for the monastery. Each day the lion would fetch food with the help of a donkey.
One day the donkey was stolen by some traders, and the lion was accused of eating him, so Jerome forced the lion to do the work of the donkey.
After some time the merchants returned, led by the stolen donkey, who was recognized by the lion.
The lion chased the merchants and brought back the donkey.
Saint Jerome is often portrayed with a lion nearby. Sometimes a large cat takes its place.
He is also shown doing penance in a desert with a lion nearby.
Sometimes a cardinal’s hat is shown, though there is no historical authority for Jerome having been a cardinal.
Last updated: November 19, 2012 at 22:37 pm
Back to Saints
Back to Home