dimanche 30 septembre 2012

Saint JÉRÔME, prêtre, Père et Docteur de l'Église



Christoph Paudiss. Jérôme de Stridon (Saint Jérôme). ca 1656-58. 
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienne (Autriche). Inv Nr GG 395.


Saint Jérôme

Prêtre, Docteur de l'Église

(340-420)

Saint Jérôme naquit en Dalmatie, de parents riches et illustres, qui ne négligèrent rien pour son éducation. Le jeune homme profita si bien de ses années d'études, qu'on put bientôt, à la profondeur de son jugement, à la vigueur de son intelligence, à l'éclat de son imagination, deviner l'homme de génie qui devait un jour remplir le monde de son nom. Les séductions de Rome entraînèrent un instant Jérôme hors des voies de l'Évangile; mais bientôt, revenant à des idées plus sérieuses, il ne songea plus qu'à pleurer ses péchés et se retira dans une solitude profonde, près d'Antioche, n'ayant pour tout bagage qu'une collection de livres précieux qu'il avait faite dans ses voyages.

L'ennemi des âmes poursuivit Jérôme jusque dans son désert, et là, lui rappelant les plaisirs de Rome, réveilla dans son imagination de dangereux fantômes. Mais l'athlète du Christ, loin de se laisser abattre par ces assauts continuels, redoubla d'austérités; il se couchait sur la terre nue, passait les nuits et les jours à verser des larmes, refusait toute nourriture pendant des semaines entières. Ces prières et ces larmes furent enfin victorieuses, et les attaques de Satan ne servirent qu'à faire mieux éclater la sainteté du jeune moine.

Avec des auteurs sacrés, Jérôme avait emporté au désert quelques auteurs profanes; il se plaisait à converser avec Cicéron et Quintillien. Mais Dieu, qui réservait pour Lui seul les trésors de cet esprit, ne permit plus au solitaire de goûter à ces sources humaines, et, dans une vision célèbre, Il lui fit comprendre qu'il devait se donner tout entier aux études saintes: "Non, lui disait une voix pendant son sommeil, tu n'es pas chrétien, tu es cicéronien!" Et Jérôme s'écriait en pleurant: "Seigneur, si désormais je prends un livre profane, si je le lis, je consens à être traité comme un apostat."

Son unique occupation fut la Sainte Écriture. À Antioche, puis en Palestine, puis à Rome, puis enfin à Bethléem, où il passa les années de sa vieillesse, il s'occupa du grand travail de la traduction des Saints Livres sur le texte original, et il a la gloire unique d'avoir laissé à l'Église cette version célèbre appelée la Vulgate, version officielle et authentique, qu'on peut et doit suivre en toute sécurité.

Une autre gloire de saint Jérôme, c'est d'avoir été le secrétaire du concile de Constantinople, puis le secrétaire du Pape saint Damase. Après la mort de ce Pape, l'envie et la calomnie chassèrent de Rome ce grand défenseur de la foi, et il alla terminer ses jours dans la solitude, à Bethléem, près du berceau du Christ.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_jerome.html


BENOÎT XVI



AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE



Mercredi 7 novembre 2007



Saint Jérôme


Chers frères et soeurs!

Nous porterons aujourd'hui notre attention sur saint Jérôme, un Père de l'Eglise qui a placé la Bible au centre de sa vie: il l'a traduite en langue latine, il l'a commentée dans ses œuvres, et il s'est surtout engagé à la vivre concrètement au cours de sa longue existence terrestre, malgré le célèbre caractère difficile et fougueux qu'il avait reçu de la nature.

Jérôme naquit à Stridon vers 347 dans une famille chrétienne, qui lui assura une formation soignée, l'envoyant également à Rome pour perfectionner ses études. Dès sa jeunesse, il ressentit l'attrait de la vie dans le monde (cf. Ep 22, 7), mais en lui prévalurent le désir et l'intérêt pour la religion chrétienne. Après avoir reçu le Baptême vers 366, il s'orienta vers la vie ascétique et, s'étant rendu à Aquilée, il s'inséra dans un groupe de fervents chrétiens, qu'il définit comme un "chœur de bienheureux" (Chron. ad ann. 374) réuni autour de l'Evêque Valérien. Il partit ensuite pour l'Orient et vécut en ermite dans le désert de Calcide, au sud d'Alep (cf. Ep 14, 10), se consacrant sérieusement aux études. Il perfectionna sa connaissance du grec, commença l'étude de l'hébreu (cf. Ep 125, 12), transcrivit des codex et des œuvres patristiques (cf. Ep 5, 2). La méditation, la solitude, le contact avec la Parole de Dieu firent mûrir sa sensibilité chrétienne. Il sentit de manière plus aiguë le poids de ses expériences de jeunesse (cf. Ep 22, 7), et il ressentit vivement l'opposition entre la mentalité païenne et la vie chrétienne: une opposition rendue célèbre par la "vision" dramatique et vivante, dont il nous a laissé le récit. Dans celle-ci, il lui sembla être flagellé devant Dieu, car "cicéronien et non chrétien" (cf. Ep 22, 30).

En 382, il partit s'installer à Rome: là, le Pape Damase, connaissant sa réputation d'ascète et sa compétence d'érudit, l'engagea comme secrétaire et conseiller; il l'encouragea à entreprendre une nouvelle traduction latine des textes bibliques pour des raisons pastorales et culturelles. Quelques personnes de l'aristocratie romaine, en particulier des nobles dames comme Paola, Marcella, Asella, Lea et d'autres, souhaitant s'engager sur la voie de la perfection chrétienne et approfondir leur connaissance de la Parole de Dieu, le choisirent comme guide spirituel et maître dans l'approche méthodique des textes sacrés. Ces nobles dames apprirent également le grec et l'hébreu.

Après la mort du Pape Damase, Jérôme quitta Rome en 385 et entreprit un pèlerinage, tout d'abord en Terre Sainte, témoin silencieux de la vie terrestre du Christ, puis en Egypte, terre d'élection de nombreux moines (cf. Contra Rufinum 3, 22; Ep 108, 6-14). En 386, il s'arrêta à Bethléem, où, grâce à la générosité de la noble dame Paola, furent construits un monastère masculin, un monastère féminin et un hospice pour les pèlerins qui se rendaient en Terre Sainte, "pensant que Marie et Joseph n'avaient pas trouvé où faire halte" (Ep 108, 14). Il resta à Bethléem jusqu'à sa mort, en continuant à exercer une intense activité: il commenta la Parole de Dieu; défendit la foi, s'opposant avec vigueur à différentes hérésies; il exhorta les moines à la perfection; il enseigna la culture classique et chrétienne à de jeunes élèves; il accueillit avec une âme pastorale les pèlerins qui visitaient la Terre Sainte. Il s'éteignit dans sa cellule, près de la grotte de la Nativité, le 30 septembre 419/420.

Sa grande culture littéraire et sa vaste érudition permirent à Jérôme la révision et la traduction de nombreux textes bibliques: un travail précieux pour l'Eglise latine et pour la culture occidentale. Sur la base des textes originaux en grec et en hébreu et grâce à la confrontation avec les versions précédentes, il effectua la révision des quatre Evangiles en langue latine, puis du Psautier et d'une grande partie de l'Ancien Testament. En tenant compte de l'original hébreu et grec, des Septante et de la version grecque classique de l'Ancien Testament remontant à l'époque pré-chrétienne, et des précédentes versions latines, Jérôme, ensuite assisté par d'autres collaborateurs, put offrir une meilleure traduction: elle constitue ce qu'on appelle la "Vulgate", le texte "officiel" de l'Eglise latine, qui a été reconnu comme tel par le Concile de Trente et qui, après la récente révision, demeure le texte "officiel" de l'Eglise de langue latine. Il est intéressant de souligner les critères auxquels ce grand bibliste s'est tenu dans son œuvre de traducteur. Il le révèle lui-même quand il affirme respecter jusqu'à l'ordre des mots dans les Saintes Ecritures, car dans celles-ci, dit-il, "l'ordre des mots est aussi un mystère" (Ep 57, 5), c'est-à-dire une révélation. Il réaffirme en outre la nécessité d'avoir recours aux textes originaux: "S'il devait surgir une discussion entre les Latins sur le Nouveau Testament, en raison des leçons discordantes des manuscrits, ayons recours à l'original, c'est-à-dire au texte grec, langue dans laquelle a été écrit le Nouveau Pacte. De la même manière pour l'Ancien Testament, s'il existe des divergences entre les textes grecs et latins, nous devons faire appel au texte original, l'hébreu; de manière à ce que nous puissions retrouver tout ce qui naît de la source dans les ruisseaux" (Ep 106, 2). En outre, Jérôme commenta également de nombreux textes bibliques. Il pensait que les commentaires devaient offrir de nombreuses opinions, "de manière à ce que le lecteur avisé, après avoir lu les différentes explications et après avoir connu de nombreuses opinions - à accepter ou à refuser -, juge celle qui était la plus crédible et, comme un expert en monnaies, refuse la fausse monnaie" (Contra Rufinum 1, 16).

Il réfuta avec énergie et vigueur les hérétiques qui contestaient la tradition et la foi de l'Eglise. Il démontra également l'importance et la validité de la littérature chrétienne, devenue une véritable culture désormais digne d'être comparée avec la littérature classique: il le fit en composant le De viris illustribus, une œuvre dans laquelle Jérôme présente les biographies de plus d'une centaine d'auteurs chrétiens. Il écrivit également des biographies de moines, illustrant à côté d'autres itinéraires spirituels également l'idéal monastique; en outre, il traduisit diverses œuvres d'auteurs grecs. Enfin, dans le fameux Epistolario, un chef-d'œuvre de la littérature latine, Jérôme apparaît avec ses caractéristiques d'homme cultivé, d'ascète et de guide des âmes.

Que pouvons-nous apprendre de saint Jérôme? Je pense en particulier ceci: aimer la Parole de Dieu dans l'Ecriture Sainte. Saint Jérôme dit: "Ignorer les Ecritures, c'est ignorer le Christ". C'est pourquoi, il est très important que chaque chrétien vive en contact et en dialogue personnel avec la Parole de Dieu qui nous a été donnée dans l'Ecriture Sainte. Notre dialogue avec elle doit toujours revêtir deux dimensions: d'une part, il doit être un dialogue réellement personnel, car Dieu parle avec chacun de nous à travers l'Ecriture Sainte et possède un message pour chacun. Nous devons lire l'Ecriture Sainte non pas comme une parole du passé, mais comme une Parole de Dieu qui s'adresse également à nous et nous efforcer de comprendre ce que le Seigneur veut nous dire. Mais pour ne pas tomber dans l'individualisme, nous devons tenir compte du fait que la Parole de Dieu nous est donnée précisément pour construire la communion, pour nous unir dans la vérité de notre chemin vers Dieu. C'est pourquoi, tout en étant une Parole personnelle, elle est également une Parole qui construit une communauté, qui construit l'Eglise. Nous devons donc la lire en communion avec l'Eglise vivante. Le lieu privilégié de la lecture et de l'écoute de la Parole de Dieu est la liturgie, dans laquelle, en célébrant la parole et en rendant présent dans le Sacrement le Corps du Christ, nous réalisons la parole dans notre vie et la rendons présente parmi nous. Nous ne devons jamais oublier que la Parole de Dieu transcende les temps. Les opinions humaines vont et viennent. Ce qui est très moderne aujourd'hui sera très vieux demain. La Parole de Dieu, au contraire, est une Parole de vie éternelle, elle porte en elle l'éternité, ce qui vaut pour toujours. En portant en nous la Parole de Dieu, nous portons donc en nous l'éternel, la vie éternelle.

Et ainsi, je conclus par une parole de saint Jérôme à saint Paulin de Nola. Dans celle-ci, le grand exégète exprime précisément cette réalité, c'est-à-dire que dans la Parole de Dieu, nous recevons l'éternité, la vie éternelle. Saint Jérôme dit: "Cherchons à apprendre sur la terre les vérités dont la consistance persistera également au ciel" (Ep 53, 10).

* * *

Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française, particulièrement les pèlerins de la diaconie du Var et les jeunes. À la suite de saint Jérôme, je vous invite à lire et à méditer la Parole de Dieu, qui nous est donnée dans la Bible. Faites-en tous les jours votre nourriture spirituelle ! Que Dieu vous bénisse et vous garde dans l’espérance !


© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071107_fr.html



BENOÎT XVI



AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE



Mercredi 14 novembre 2007



Saint Jérôme


Chers frères et sœurs,

Nous poursuivons aujourd'hui la présentation de la figure de saint Jérôme. Comme nous l'avons dit mercredi dernier, il consacra sa vie à l'étude de la Bible, au point d'être reconnu par l'un de mes prédécesseurs, le Pape Benoît XV, comme "docteur éminent dans l'interprétation des Saintes Ecritures". Jérôme soulignait la joie et l'importance de se familiariser avec les textes bibliques: "Ne te semble-t-il pas habiter - déjà ici, sur terre - dans le royaume des cieux, lorsqu'on vit parmi ces textes, lorsqu'on les médite, lorsqu'on ne connaît ni ne recherche rien d'autre?" (Ep 53, 10). En réalité, dialoguer avec Dieu, avec sa Parole, est dans un certain sens une présence du Ciel, c'est-à-dire une présence de Dieu. S'approcher des textes bibliques, surtout du Nouveau Testament, est essentiel pour le croyant, car "ignorer l'Ecriture, c'est ignorer le Christ". C'est à lui qu'appartient cette phrase célèbre, également citée par le Concile Vatican II dans la Constitution Dei Verbum (n. 25).

Réellement "amoureux" de la Parole de Dieu, il se demandait: "Comment pourrait-on vivre sans la science des Ecritures, à travers lesquelles on apprend à connaître le Christ lui-même, qui est la vie des croyants" (Ep 30, 7). La Bible, instrument "avec lequel Dieu parle chaque jour aux fidèles" (Ep 133, 13), devient ainsi un encouragement et la source de la vie chrétienne pour toutes les situations et pour chaque personne. Lire l'Ecriture signifie converser avec Dieu: "Si tu pries - écrit-il à une noble jeune fille de Rome -, tu parles avec l'Epoux; si tu lis, c'est Lui qui te parle" (Ep 22, 25). L'étude et la méditation de l'Ecriture rendent l'homme sage et serein (cf. In Eph., prol.). Assurément, pour pénétrer toujours plus profondément la Parole de Dieu, une application constante et progressive est nécessaire. Jérôme recommandait ainsi au prêtre Népotien: "Lis avec une grande fréquence les divines Ecritures; ou mieux, que le Livre Saint reste toujours entre tes mains. Apprends-là ce que tu dois enseigner" (Ep 52, 7). Il donnait les conseils suivants à la matrone romaine Leta pour l'éducation chrétienne de sa fille: "Assure-toi qu'elle étudie chaque jour un passage de l'Ecriture... Qu'à la prière elle fasse suivre la lecture, et à la lecture la prière... Au lieu des bijoux et des vêtements de soie, qu'elle aime les Livres divins" (Ep 107, 9.12). Avec la méditation et la science des Ecritures se "conserve l'équilibre de l'âme" (Ad Eph., prol.). Seul un profond esprit de prière et l'assistance de l'Esprit Saint peuvent nous introduire à la compréhension de la Bible: "Dans l'interprétation des Saintes Ecritures, nous avons toujours besoin de l'assistance de l'Esprit Saint" (In Mich. 1, 1, 10, 15).

Un amour passionné pour les Ecritures imprégna donc toute la vie de Jérôme, un amour qu'il chercha toujours à susciter également chez les fidèles. Il recommandait à l'une de ses filles spirituelles: "Aime l'Ecriture Sainte et la sagesse t'aimera; aime-la tendrement, et celle-ci te préservera; honore-la et tu recevras ses caresses. Qu'elle soit pour toi comme tes colliers et tes boucles d'oreille" (Ep 130, 20). Et encore: "Aime la science de l'Ecriture, et tu n'aimeras pas les vices de la chair" (Ep 125, 11).

Pour Jérôme, un critère de méthode fondamental dans l'interprétation des Ecritures était l'harmonie avec le magistère de l'Eglise. Nous ne pouvons jamais lire l'Ecriture seuls. Nous trouvons trop de portes fermées et nous glissons facilement dans l'erreur. La Bible a été écrite par le Peuple de Dieu et pour le Peuple de Dieu, sous l'inspiration de l'Esprit Saint. Ce n'est que dans cette communion avec le Peuple de Dieu que nous pouvons réellement entrer avec le "nous" au centre de la vérité que Dieu lui-même veut nous dire. Pour lui, une interprétation authentique de la Bible devait toujours être en harmonieuse concordance avec la foi de l'Eglise catholique. Il ne s'agit pas d'une exigence imposée à ce Livre de l'extérieur; le Livre est précisément la voix du Peuple de Dieu en pèlerinage et ce n'est que dans la foi de ce Peuple que nous sommes, pour ainsi dire, dans la juste tonalité pour comprendre l'Ecriture Sainte. Il admonestait donc: "Reste fermement attaché à la doctrine traditionnelle qui t'a été enseignée, afin que tu puisses exhorter selon la saine doctrine et réfuter ceux qui la contredisent" (Ep 52, 7). En particulier, étant donné que Jésus Christ a fondé son Eglise sur Pierre, chaque chrétien - concluait-il - doit être en communion "avec la Chaire de saint Pierre. Je sais que sur cette pierre l'Eglise est édifiée" (Ep 15, 2). Par conséquent, et de façon directe, il déclarait: "Je suis avec quiconque est uni à la Chaire de saint Pierre" (Ep 16).

Jérôme ne néglige pas, bien sûr, l'aspect éthique. Il rappelle au contraire souvent le devoir d'accorder sa propre vie avec la Parole divine et ce n'est qu'en la vivant que nous trouvons également la capacité de la comprendre. Cette cohérence est indispensable pour chaque chrétien, et en particulier pour le prédicateur, afin que ses actions, si elles étaient discordantes par rapport au discours, ne le mettent pas dans l'embarras. Ainsi exhorte-t-il le prêtre Népotien: "Que tes actions ne démentent pas tes paroles, afin que, lorsque tu prêches à l'église, il n'arrive pas que quelqu'un commente en son for intérieur: "Pourquoi n'agis-tu pas précisément ainsi?" Cela est vraiment plaisant de voir ce maître qui, le ventre plein, disserte sur le jeûne; même un voleur peut blâmer l'avarice; mais chez le prêtre du Christ, l'esprit et la parole doivent s'accorder" (Ep 52, 7). Dans une autre lettre, Jérôme réaffirme: "Même si elle possède une doctrine splendide, la personne qui se sent condamnée par sa propre conscience se sent honteuse" (Ep 127, 4). Toujours sur le thème de la cohérence, il observe: l'Evangile doit se traduire par des attitudes de charité véritable, car en chaque être humain, la Personne même du Christ est présente. En s'adressant, par exemple, au prêtre Paulin (qui devint ensuite Evêque de Nola et saint), Jérôme le conseillait ainsi: "Le véritable temple du Christ est l'âme du fidèle: orne-le, ce sanctuaire, embellis-le, dépose en lui tes offrandes et reçois le Christ. Dans quel but revêtir les murs de pierres précieuses, si le Christ meurt de faim dans la personne d'un pauvre?" (Ep 58, 7). Jérôme concrétise: il faut "vêtir le Christ chez les pauvres, lui rendre visite chez les personnes qui souffrent, le nourrir chez les affamés, le loger chez les sans-abris" (Ep 130, 14). L'amour pour le Christ, nourri par l'étude et la méditation, nous fait surmonter chaque difficulté: "Aimons nous aussi Jésus Christ, recherchons toujours l'union avec lui: alors, même ce qui est difficile nous semblera facile" (Ep 22, 40).

Jérôme, défini par Prospère d'Aquitaine comme un "modèle de conduite et maître du genre humain" (Carmen de ingratis, 57), nous a également laissé un enseignement riche et varié sur l'ascétisme chrétien. Il rappelle qu'un courageux engagement vers la perfection demande une vigilance constante, de fréquentes mortifications, toutefois avec modération et prudence, un travail intellectuel ou manuel assidu pour éviter l'oisiveté (cf. Epp 125, 11 et 130, 15), et surtout l'obéissance à Dieu: "Rien... ne plaît autant à Dieu que l'obéissance..., qui est la plus excellente et l'unique vertu" (Hom. de oboedientia: CCL 78,552). La pratique des pèlerinages peut également appartenir au chemin ascétique. Jérôme donna en particulier une impulsion à ceux en Terre Sainte, où les pèlerins étaient accueillis et logés dans des édifices élevés à côté du monastère de Bethléem, grâce à la générosité de la noble dame Paule, fille spirituelle de Jérôme (cf. Ep 108, 14).

Enfin, on ne peut pas oublier la contribution apportée par Jérôme dans le domaine de la pédagogie chrétienne (cf. Epp 107 et 128). Il se propose de former "une âme qui doit devenir le temple du Seigneur" (Ep 107, 4), une "pierre très précieuse" aux yeux de Dieu (Ep 107, 13). Avec une profonde intuition, il conseille de la préserver du mal et des occasions de pécher, d'exclure les amitiés équivoques ou débauchées (cf. Ep 107, 4 et 8-9; cf. également Ep 128, 3-4). Il exhorte surtout les parents pour qu'ils créent un environnement serein et joyeux autour des enfants, pour qu'ils les incitent à l'étude et au travail, également par la louange et l'émulation (cf. Epp 107, 4 et 128, 1), qu'ils les encouragent à surmonter les difficultés, qu'ils favorisent entre eux les bonnes habitudes et qu'ils les préservent d'en prendre de mauvaises car - et il cite là une phrase de Publilius Syrus entendue à l'école - "difficilement tu réussiras à te corriger de ces choses dont tu prends tranquillement l'habitude" (Ep 107, 8). Les parents sont les principaux éducateurs des enfants, les premiers maîtres de vie. Avec une grande clarté, Jérôme, s'adressant à la mère d'une jeune fille et mentionnant ensuite le père, admoneste, comme exprimant une exigence fondamentale de chaque créature humaine qui commence son existence: "Qu'elle trouve en toi sa maîtresse, et que sa jeunesse inexpérimentée regarde vers toi avec émerveillement. Que ni en toi, ni en son père elle ne voie jamais d'attitudes qui la conduisent au péché, si elles devaient être imitées. Rappelez-vous que... vous pouvez davantage l'éduquer par l'exemple que par la parole" (Ep 107, 9). Parmi les principales intuitions de Jérôme comme pédagogue, on doit souligner l'importance attribuée à une éducation saine et complète dès la prime enfance, la responsabilité particulière reconnue aux parents, l'urgence d'une sérieuse formation morale et religieuse, l'exigence de l'étude pour une formation humaine plus complète. En outre, un aspect assez négligé à l'époque antique, mais considéré comme vital par notre auteur, est la promotion de la femme, à laquelle il reconnaît le droit à une formation complète: humaine, scolaire, religieuse, professionnelle. Et nous voyons précisément aujourd'hui que l'éducation de la personnalité dans son intégralité, l'éducation à la responsabilité devant Dieu et devant l'homme, est la véritable condition de tout progrès, de toute paix, de toute réconciliation et d'exclusion de la violence. L'éducation devant Dieu et devant l'homme: c'est l'Ecriture Sainte qui nous indique la direction de l'éducation et ainsi, du véritable humanisme.

Nous ne pouvons pas conclure ces rapides annotations sur cet éminent Père de l'Eglise sans mentionner la contribution efficace qu'il apporta à la préservation d'éléments positifs et valables des antiques cultures juive, grecque et romaine au sein de la civilisation chrétienne naissante. Jérôme a reconnu et assimilé les valeurs artistiques, la richesse des sentiments et l'harmonie des images présentes chez les classiques, qui éduquent le cœur et l'imagination à de nobles sentiments. Il a en particulier placé au centre de sa vie et de son activité la Parole de Dieu, qui indique à l'homme les chemins de la vie, et lui révèle les secrets de la sainteté. Nous ne pouvons que lui être profondément reconnaissants pour tout cela, précisément dans le monde d'aujourd'hui.

* * *

Je suis heureux de saluer les francophones, notamment les jeunes prêtres de Belley-Ars, avec leur Évêque, Mgr Bagnard. J’adresse un salut tout particulier aux pèlerins de France venus avec les reliques de sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus et de la Sainte-Face, accompagnés par Mgr Pican, Évêque de Bayeux et Lisieux. Nous nous souvenons qu’il y a cent vingt ans, la petite Thérèse est venue rencontrer le Pape Léon XIII, pour lui demander la permission d’entrer au Carmel malgré son jeune âge. Il y a quatre-vingt ans, le Pape Pie XI la proclamait Patronne des Missions et, en 1997, le Pape Jean-Paul II la déclarait Docteur de l’Église. Après cette audience, j’aurai la joie de prier devant ses reliques, comme de nombreux fidèles peuvent le faire pendant toute la semaine dans différentes églises de Rome. Sainte Thérèse aurait voulu apprendre les langues bibliques pour mieux lire l’Écriture. À sa suite et à l’exemple de saint Jérôme, puissiez-vous prendre du temps pour lire la Bible de manière régulière. En devenant familiers de la Parole de Dieu, vous y rencontrerez le Christ pour demeurer en intimité avec lui. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071114_fr.html



Saint JÉRÔME

I. Vie

- 1. Naissance et famille

- 2. Brillant étudiant à Rome

- 3. Passant distrait en Gaule

- 4. Apprenti ascète à Aquilée

- 5. Anachorète novice en Syrie

- 6. Étudiant ecclésiastique à Constantinople

- 7. Secrétaire du pape Damase

- 8. Il se lie d’amitié avec de saintes femmes

- 9. Il regagne l’Orient

- 10. Il se fixe à Bethléem

II. Œuvres

- 1. L’œuvre essentielle : les travaux bibliques

- 2. Traductions d’auteurs ecclésiastiques

- 3. Œuvres polémiques

- 4. Œuvres historiques

- 5. Homélies

- 6. Lettres

- Conclusion : L’homme des Écritures et un maître de d’ascèse
• Ignorer les Écritures, c’est ignorer le Christ.

Commentaire sur Isaïe, prologue

• Lis assez souvent et étudie le plus possible. Que le sommeil te surprenne un livre à la main ; qu’en tombant, ton visage rencontre l’accueil d’une page sainte.

Lettre 22 à Eustochium

• Pour ce qui est des Écritures saintes, fixe-toi un certain nombre de versets. Acquitte-toi de cette tâche envers ton Maître et n’accorde pas de repos à tes membres avant d’avoir rempli de ce tissu la corbeille de travail qu’est ton cœur. Après les Écritures saintes, lis les traités des savants, mais de ceux-là seulement dont la foi est notoire. Tu n’as pas besoin de chercher de l’or dans la boue ; au prix de perles nombreuses, achète la perle unique. Comme dit Jérémie (6, 16), tiens-toi au débouché de plusieurs chemins, mais pour arriver à ce chemin qui conduit au Père.

Lettre 54 à la veuve Furia




Luc Breton . Saint Jérome écrivant. Terre cuite - XVIIIe siècle


I. Vie

1. Naissance et famille

Saint Jérôme nous l’apprend lui-même : il est « né chrétien de parents chrétiens » [1]. Les savants, tout en renonçant à dater sa naissance, la situent entre 340 et 347. Tout en avouant de même qu’il n’est pas possible de trouver l’emplacement de sa ville natale Stridon, détruite de fond en comble par les Goths en 392, ils la localisent aux confins de la Pannonie ou Hongrie actuelle et de la Dalmatie. De toute façon, par sa culture, Jérôme est un Romain. Aîné de trois enfants, il eut un frère Paulinien et une sœur. Un des meilleurs connaisseurs de saint Jérôme, Dom Paul Antin, résume si bien sa vie en la survolant que nous le citons et que nous en reprendrons les termes comme divisions caractérisées de cette notice :

• « Brillant étudiant à Rome, passant distrait en Gaule, apprenti ascète à Aquilée, anachorète novice en Syrie, derechef étudiant mais étudiant ecclésiastique à Constantinople sous Grégoire de Nazianze, secrétaire du pape Damase à Rome où il se lie d’amitié avec de saintes femmes, il regagne l’Orient définitivement en 385 et se fixe à Bethléem » [2].

2. Brillant étudiant à Rome

Jeune encore, peut-être même vers l’âge de douze ans déjà, Jérôme est à Rome pour y étudier. Toute sa vie, il aima l’étude et étudia fort bien. Il ne se lassera pas de vanter le maître très aimé qui le forma à la grammaire, le célèbre Donat. De chers condisciples allaient devenir de grands amis, Bonose et Rufin. Ce dernier est le futur traducteur d’Origène et… le futur ennemi de Jérôme !

Jérôme s’accusera de la vie dissolue qu’il mena à Rome et le souvenir des tentations que lui offrait la grande ville aux mœurs décadentes le hantera souvent :

• Combien de fois moi qui étais installé dans le désert, dans cette vaste solitude torréfiée d’un soleil ardent, affreux habitat offert aux moines, je me suis cru mêlé aux plaisirs de Rome ! J’étais assis, solitaire… et moi-même qui, par crainte de la géhenne, m’étais personnellement infligé une si dure prison, sans autre société que les scorpions et les bêtes sauvages, souvent je croyais assister aux danses des jeunes filles.

Lettre 22 à Eustochium (vers 384)

Jérôme reçut le baptême à Rome, sans doute en 366.

3. Passant distrait en Gaule

Ses études finies, Jérôme inaugure par la Gaule une longue suite de voyages. Il parcourt la Gaule et fait étape à Trèves, la capitale de l’Occident. Il y découvre la vie monastique et en ressent l’attrait. La Vie d’Antoine avait été traduite en latin à Trèves, lors de l’exil de saint Athanase dans cette ville [3], par un certain Evagrios dont nous allons bientôt devoir reparler. L’ami Bonose est auprès de Jérôme et il partage son enthousiasme pour la vie monastique. Pour son ami Rufin, Jérôme transcrit des œuvres d’Hilaire de Poitiers : le Commentaire des psaumes et le recueil Sur les synodes.


Antonello de Messine, Saint Jérôme (Panneaux de Palerme), 1472-1473, 
Tempera grasse sur bois transférée sur toile, 39 X 41, Palerme, Galleria Regionale della Sicilia di Palazzo Abatellis


4. Apprenti ascète à Aquilée

Jérôme regagne son pays natal qu’il ne semble d’ailleurs pas apprécier :

• Dans mon pays natal, vu la grossièreté du terroir, on a pour dieu le ventre. On vit au jour le jour. Le plus riche est réputé le plus saint.

Lettre 7, 5

Il se montre empressé à réaliser son désir de vie monastique et il se rend à Aquilée, colonie italienne et grand port sur l’Adriatique, où il s’adjoint, avec ses amis Bonose et Rufin, à une communauté de clercs et de laïcs qui menaient la vie ascétique, sous la direction du prêtre Chromace :

• Les clercs d’Aquilée forment comme un chœur de bienheureux.

Chronique

Cependant sept membres de la communauté, dont Jérôme, durent la quitter. Que s’était-il passé ? On ne le sait trop, malgré les suppositions qu’on avance : Jérôme avait-il été imprudent ou son langage cinglant avait-il froissé ? On doit seulement reconnaître que tout au long de sa vie, Jérôme eut, par sa franchise brutale, le don de susciter des inimitiés… [4]

• Un cyclone soudain m’emporta loin de toi dans son tourbillon. À la liaison d’un cher attachement succéda ce déchirement impie qui nous sépara.

Lettre 3 à Rufin

5. Anachorète novice en Syrie

Jérôme s’enfuit vers l’Orient. Il traverse la Thrace, le Pont et la Bithynie, la Galatie, la Cappadoce et la Cilicie et il arrive, épuisé, en Syrie :

• J’étais fourbu ! La Syrie s’offrait à moi comme un port très sûr à un naufragé.

Lettre 3 à Rufin

Jérôme s’arrête à Antioche, la prestigieuse capitale, il y résidera à la villa du prêtre Evagrios, le traducteur de la Vie d’Antoine. Il se livre alors à corps perdu à ses études : il perfectionne sa connaissance du grec, il lit Plaute, Cicéron, son Virgile et la Bible !

• Misère de moi ! Je jeûnais puis je lisais Cicéron : après nombre de nuits passées à veiller, après les larmes que le souvenir de mes fautes anciennes arrachait du plus profond de mon cœur, c’était Plaute que je prenais entre mes mains ! Si d’aventure, me ressaisissant, je me mettais à lire les prophètes, leur style sans élégance me rebutait [5]. Mes yeux aveuglés ne voyaient plus la lumière et j’accusais non pas mes yeux mais le soleil !

Lettre 22 à Eustochium

Il y a donc conflit intérieur. Or voici que Jérôme, déjà épuisé, tombe gravement malade : « Déjà on préparait les funérailles », nous dit-il [6]. Un terrible cauchemar révèle la profondeur de la crise et la dénoue :

• Soudain, je suis ravi en esprit et entraîné au tribunal du Juge… Interrogé sur ma condition, je répondis que j’étais chrétien.

Tu mens, répondit celui qui siégeait. Tu es cicéronien, non pas chrétien. Là où est ton trésor, là est ton cœur (Mt 6, 21).

Aussitôt je me tus.

Le juge avait ordonné qu’on me frappât, mais sous les coups c’était ma conscience qui me brûlait davantage : quelle torture !… Je criais, je gémissais : « Pitié pour moi, Seigneur, pitié pour moi ». Ces mots retentissaient parmi les coups. Les assistants prosternés à genoux suppliaient le président de pardonner à ma jeunesse, d’accorder à ma faute le temps du repentir, quitte à reprendre plus tard le supplice mérité si jamais je lisais encore des livres de littérature païenne.

Quant à moi, dans une passe si critique, j’étais prêt à promettre bien davantage : Seigneur, si jamais je possède des ouvrages profanes ou si j’en lis, c’est toi que j’aurai renié !…

Et ce n’était pas là un songe, un de ces vains rêves dont nous sommes souvent les jouets…

Lettre 22

Dix-sept ans plus tard, à Bethléem, Jérôme professeur expliquait Virgile et Cicéron à de jeunes élèves ! Rufin s’en indigna et Jérôme, reniant son extrémisme d’autrefois, s’indigna de cette indignation !

• Si Rufin m’incrimine au nom d’un songe, qu’il écoute l’enseignement des prophètes : on ne doit pas croire aux songes… que de fois ne me suis-je pas vu volant dans les airs et franchissant terre et mer par monts et par vaux !

Apologie contre Rufin, 1, 30

Imprudence de langage ? Versatilité ? Jérôme passionné est excessif dans son langage ! Ses ennemis ne lui pardonnent pas ses volte-face déconcertantes mais ses amis en trouvent d’excellentes raisons : « La future grandeur de Jérôme sera de retrouver Cicéron après avoir consenti à le perdre » [7]. La finale du récit en demeure l’essentiel :

• Depuis lors, j’ai donné aux livres divins les soins que je mettais à lire ceux des hommes.

Lettre 22

Jérôme restera fidèle toute sa vie à cette préférence absolue accordée aux livres divins et les fruits de son étude de l’Ecriture demeurent.

Assoiffé d’absolu, Jérôme prit le chemin du désert de Chalcis situé au sud-est d’Antioche. Il allait y demeurer près de deux ans et demi, c’était en 374. Les peintres, tel Léonard de Vinci, nous ont laissé des tableaux effrayants de l’ermite ascète décharné ! Jérôme a posé pour eux, ils furent fidèles à leur modèle, qu’on en juge :

• J’étais assis tout seul, rempli d’amertume, hideux sous le cilice horripilant, avec une pellicule de crasse qui me faisait une peau d’Ethiopien. Chaque jour, des larmes, chaque jour, des gémissements. Si le sommeil, malgré ma résistance, m’écrasait, mes os qui ne se tenaient presque plus, se heurtaient à la terre nue… J’étais pâle de jeûnes, ma mémoire bouillonnait de désirs dans un corps glacé… Je criais jour et nuit et je ne cessais de me frapper la poitrine qu’au retour de la paix sur l’ordre du Seigneur.

… Voyais-je un creux de vallon, un escarpement de montagne, un roc abrupt, j’en faisais mon oratoire et le cachot de cette chair si misérable. Et, j’en atteste le Seigneur après avoir longuement pleuré et contemplé le ciel, je me croyais parmi les troupes des anges ; heureux et joyeux, je chantais : « Après toi, nous courons à l’odeur de tes parfums (Ct. 1, 3) ».

Lettre 22

L’affreux désert est un paradis, aux cris d’horreur de Jérôme succèdent ses élans de ravissement. Il n’y a pas contradiction mais les points de vue diffèrent : l’austérité est le prix du bonheur !

• O désert où brillent les fleurs du Christ ! O solitude où naissent les pierres fameuses qui d’après l’Apocalypse servent à bâtir la cité du grand Roi ! O ermitage où l’on jouit de la familiarité divine !

Lettre 14 à Héliodore

Jérôme apprend l’hébreu auprès d’un Juif converti :

• J’appris l’alphabet hébreu, m’exerçant à prononcer les sifflantes et les gutturales. Ce que je subis de fatigue ! Ce que j’éprouvai de difficultés ! Que de fois, par désespoir, j’ai arrêté mon effort que je reprenais, décidé à vaincre dans le combat ! J’en ai pour témoin ma conscience à moi qui ai souffert et celle de mes compagnons. Mais combien je remercie le Seigneur d’avoir tiré des fruits si doux de l’amertume de cette initiation.

Lettre 124

Jérôme travaille : il a pris avec lui sa chère bibliothèque qui trouve place dans sa caverne ! Il entretient une correspondance suivie et sans cesse, il réclame l’envoi de livres : il s’en fait copier par une équipe de jeunes garçons. Il rédige très probablement au désert sa Vie de saint Paul ermite.

Cependant, autour de lui, les moines s’agitaient. Les querelles théologiques suscitées par les remous de l’arianisme divisaient les esprits. On en vint à soupçonner d’hérésie Jérôme, cet étranger, cet occidental ! Jérôme en appelle par deux fois au nouveau pape Damase (Lettres 15 et 16) mais le pape ne répond pas un mot à ce « franc-tireur sans mandat » ! [8] Vers 377-378, Jérôme quitte l’affreux désert, il reprend la route d’Antioche.

Il y est à nouveau l’hôte de son ami et mécène Evagrios, futur évêque d’Antioche. Ayant pris le parti de l’évêque Paulin dans sa position théologique contre l’arianisme, celui-ci voulut l’ordonner prêtre, Jérôme qui désirait être moine d’abord n’accepta qu’à la condition de ne pas devoir exercer son sacerdoce.

Toujours désireux d’approfondir sa connaissance de la Bible, il assista aux conférence d’exégèse d’Apollinaire de Laodicée :

• J’ai souvent à Antioche écouté Apollinaire de Laodicée. Je l’ai fréquenté. Mais lorsqu’il m’enseignait l’exégèse biblique, je n’ai jamais accepté sa doctrine si discutable sur le dogme [9].

Lettre 84

Jérôme partit alors à Constantinople.


Antonello de Messine, Saint Jérôme dans son étude, 1474-1475
peinture à l'huile sur panneau de tilleul (45,7 X 36,2), National Gallery, Londres.

6. Étudiant ecclésiastique à Constantinople

Jérôme devait rester à Constantinople près de trois ans : de 379 à 382. Il y connut Grégoire de Nazianze, alors évêque d’une petite communauté de chrétiens restés fidèles à la doctrine de Nicée. Il assistait à toutes les homélies et discours de celui qu’il aimait avec ferveur et qu’il appellera un jour « homme fort éloquent, mon maître - praeceptor meus - dans l’étude de l’Écriture sainte » [10].

Il apprit à bien connaître les œuvres d’Origène dont il traduisit en latin 28 homélies sur Ézéchiel et Jérémie. Il écrivit aussi neuf homélies personnelles Sur le chapitre 6 d’Isaïe. Il traduisit la Chronique historique d’Eusèbe de Césarée.

En 381 s’ouvre le Concile de Constantinople. Lassé par les rivalités et les intrigues, Grégoire de Nazianze se retire, il quitte Constantinople où plus rien dès lors ne retient Jérôme.

7. Secrétaire du pape Damase à Rome

Jérôme arrivait à Rome en compagnie de deux évêques venus d’Orient pour assister à un synode romain, Paulin d’Antioche qui l’avait ordonné prêtre et Épiphane de Salamine. Jérôme connaissait bien l’Orient, il savait l’hébreu, il était moine, prêtre, rhéteur et érudit : il ne pouvait en aucune façon passer inaperçu. Le pape Damase le remarqua et le choisit comme secrétaire particulier, archiviste et conseiller. Par un trait de génie, il comprit la vocation de Jérôme et lui confia officiellement le soin de réviser la traduction latine des Évangiles et du psautier qui était en usage à Rome. Le pape mourut, très âgé, le 11 décembre 384, Jérôme perdait en lui un ami et un protecteur. Il suffit de parcourir la correspondance du pape Damase pour y lire la familière affection et la confiance que le vieux pape témoignait à son secrétaire :

• À son très cher fils Jérôme, Damase.

Tu dors ? Depuis longtemps, tu lis plus que tu n’écris ! Voici des petites questions que je me suis décidé à t’envoyer pour te tirer du sommeil ! Non pas que tu ne doives point lire : la lecture est le pain quotidien qui nourrit et engraisse le style, mais il faut que lecture fructifie en écriture.

Lettre 35 du pape Damase

Écoutons encore Jérôme qui parle de sa traduction de la Bible, conscient des critiques qu’elle lui vaudra ! Il s’adresse au pape Damase :

• Avec du vieux, tu m’obliges à faire du neuf ? En arbitre, je dois confronter des exemplaires de l’Écriture dispersés à travers le monde. Comme ils divergent entre eux, je suis chargé de décider quels sont ceux qui concordent avec l’original grec (des Évangiles)…. Juger les autres quand on est soi-même en butte au jugement de tous !… Le premier venu… criera que je suis un faussaire et un sacrilège… Pour que mes textes ne soient pas trop différents des lectures latines dont on a pris l’habitude, j’ai freiné ma plume.

Introduction aux Évangiles, Épître dédicatoire

8. Il se lie d’amitié avec de saintes femmes

Jérôme fit la connaissance de la veuve Marcella. Cette grande dame romaine vivait avec sa mère Albina dans un palais de l’Aventin et, avide de perfection, elle groupait autour d’elle tout un cercle d’amies. Il y avait surtout Paula, restée veuve à 31 ans. Elle était la mère de Blésilla, jeune veuve très mondaine, d’Eustochium âgée alors de seize ou dix-sept ans et de Paulina qui épousera le sénateur Pammachius, ancien condisciple de Jérôme. Il y avait la veuve Léa, la jeune Asella et d’autres encore.

Jérôme deviendra le guide intellectuel et spirituel, l’animateur du groupe. Il « prodiguait monitions et exhortations » (Lettre 39 à Paula), il commentait le psautier, il donnait des cours d’hébreu. Inlassablement, il répondait aux billets impatients de l’ardente Marcella qui multipliait les consultations bibliques. Aimé et respecté, Jérôme était heureux de commenter l’Écriture devant cet auditoire de choix !

C’était trop beau pour durer ! Les critiques, les soupçons, les calomnies allaient pleuvoir !

La jeune veuve Blésilla, guidée par Jérôme, avait embrassé un genre de vie très austère. Elle tomba gravement malade, elle guérit, puis soudain la fièvre violente reprit et l’emporta en quelques jours au mois de novembre 384. Aux funérailles, la foule murmurait :

• N’est-ce pas ce que nous ne cessions de répéter ? Paula pleure sa fille tuée par les jeûnes, elle pleure parce qu’elle n’a pu en obtenir, par un second mariage, de petits-enfants !

Cette détestable engeance de moines, qu’attend-on pour l’expulser de la Ville ou la lapider ou la précipiter dans les flots ?

Lettre 39 à Paula

C’est du moins ce que prétend Jérôme dans la lettre très dure, somme toute, qu’il écrit à Paula pour lui reprocher des larmes qu’il juge indignes d’une chrétienne :

• Si je songe que tu es mère, je ne te blâme pas de pleurer, si je songe que tu es chrétienne et moniale chrétienne, ces titres me semblent exclure celui de mère…

Lettre 39

Paula cependant acceptait ce langage où l’affection alterne avec la sévérité, et elle connaissait bien celui qui se disait « père par l’esprit et éducateur par l’affection » de sa fille Blésilla.

Mais la foule grondait, attisée d’ailleurs par des clercs ulcérés des critiques - justifiées souvent - mais cinglantes de Jérôme.

Pour la vierge Eustochium, Jérôme avait écrit tout un petit Traité sur la virginité - connu surtout sous la mention de la Lettre 22. Il y caricaturait sans pitié les vierges folles, les faux moines et les prêtres gloutons.

• Quelle quantité de femmes veuves avant même d’être mariées ! Leur conscience coupable n’est voilée que par un vêtement menteur… Leurs furtives œillades entraînent derrière elles un troupeau de jeunes gens…

Il en est qui briguent le sacerdoce ou le diaconat pour avoir plus aisément accès auprès des dames… Je n’en décrirai qu’un… Remarque-t-il un coussin, une étoffe élégante ou n’importe quelle draperie de l’appartement, il la loue, l’admire, la palpe. Il se plaint de n’en point posséder de pareille et l’obtient moins qu’il ne l’extorque, car chacun redoute d’offenser ce concierge de Rome !

Lettre 22

Celles et ceux qui se sentaient visés par de telles paroles ne pouvaient pas supporter l’insupportable Jérôme qui renchérissait, car voici toute sa défense :

• J’ai dit que par le crime, le parjure et le mensonge, certains étaient parvenus à je ne sais quelle dignité ! Que t’importe puisque tu t’estimes sans reproche ! Je me suis ri d’un avocat qui a besoin d’être patronné. Je raille une éloquence de quatre sous. Qu’est-ce que cela te fait à toi qui es si verbeux ? Quel que soit le vice contre lequel je brandis la pointe de mon stylet, tu hurles qu’on te désigne !

Lettre 40 à Marcella

Marcella cependant osait lui dire son fait et le mettre en garde.

• Je le sais bien, en lisant ces invectives, ton front va se rider. Tu crains que ma franchise ne soit encore à l’origine de nouvelles disputes. Tu voudrais, si c’était possible, de ton doigt, me fermer la bouche pour que je n’ose dire ce que d’autres ne rougissent pas de faire !

Lettre 27 à Marcella

Après la mort de Damase, on osa tenir tête à Jérôme, une cabale se ligua contre lui. Une sorte de tribunal ecclésiastique le jugea et l’acquitta car la conduite de Jérôme était sans reproche. Le clergé romain n’en exigea pas moins que Jérôme quittât Rome et au plus tôt !

Au mois d’août 385, ce fut chose faite.

• Un groupe nombreux de jeunes filles m’entourait souvent. De mon mieux, fréquemment, je leur ai expliqué l’Écriture sainte. L’enseignement créa l’assiduité, l’assiduité la familiarité, et la familiarité causa la confiance. Qu’elles disent donc si elles ont jamais remarqué en moi quoi que ce soit d’étranger aux convenances chrétiennes ?

Lettre 45 à Asella

• Avant que je connaisse la maison de Paula, la sainte, Rome tout entière était d’accord pour m’apprécier ; presque tous me jugeaient digne du souverain pontificat. La bouche de Damase, de bienheureuse mémoire, tenait, disait-on, mon langage même. On m’appelait saint, on me trouvait humble et savant… mais j’ai perdu, paraît-il, toutes mes vertus. O envie qui te déchires à première, ô ruse de Satan qui toujours persécutes la sainteté !

Lettre 45 à Asella

• Trois ans ou presque j’ai vécu avec ces gens-là !

Lettre 45

9. Il regagne l’Orient

Jérôme regagne l’Orient en 385. Il est accompagné de son jeune frère Paulinien, de quelques moines et d’un ami. Il fait halte à Antioche, y retrouvant l’accueil de son ami et mécène Evagrios et l’affection de l’évêque Paulin qui l’avait ordonné.

A Antioche, Paula et sa fille Eustochium suivies de quelques moniales viennent rejoindre Jérôme : « La constellation changeait de ciel [11] » ! Et une petite caravane s’organise : ensemble, Jérôme et les pieuses moniales vont faire un grand pèlerinage en Palestine et en Égypte, le pays de la Bible et la terre d’élection du monachisme primitif !

Quelques escales importantes : Sidon, Tyr, Césarée - à Césarée le souvenir d’Origène est évoqué - Jérusalem.

• Paula visita avec tant d’ardeur et de zèle tous les lieux de la ville, et seul le désir de ceux qu’elle n’avait point encore vus était capable de l’arracher à ceux où elle était. Prosternée devant la croix, elle adora le Seigneur comme si elle l’y eût vu attaché. Pénétrant dans le sépulcre, elle baisa la pierre de la résurrection, la pierre que l’ange écarta de l’ouverture du tombeau. Et quand on lui montra le lieu même où avait reposé le corps du Seigneur, elle le baisa, y pressant ses lèvres comme si elle eût voulu se désaltérer à des eaux longtemps désirées.

Lettre 108 à Eustochium après la mort de sa mère Paula

Après Jérusalem, Bethléem.

• Je l’écoutais me jurer qu’elle contemplait avec les yeux de la foi l’enfant enveloppé de langes, vagissant dans sa crèche, les mages adorant Dieu, l’étoile qui brillait au-dessus, la Vierge-Mère, le père nourricier empressé, les bergers accourant de nuit pour voir ce qui était arrivé.

Lettre 108

Ensuite Cana, Capharnaüm.

• On regarde l’Écriture sainte avec d’autres yeux si l’on a parcouru la Judée et si l’on connaît les villes et les paysages anciens, que leur dénomination ait ou non changé depuis.

Préface au livre des Paralipomènes traduit du grec.

Ce fut alors le pèlerinage monastique en Egypte.

• Dirais-je les Macaire, les Arsène, les Sérapion, et ces autres colonnes de la foi au Christ ? Y eut-il un seul d’entre eux dans la cellule de qui elle (Paula) ne soit entrée et aux pieds duquel elle ne se soit prosternée ? Elle croyait voir le Christ en la personne de chacun de ces saints et tout ce qu’elle faisait à leur égard elle le faisait en se disant avec joie : c’est au Seigneur que je le fais [12].

Lettre 108

Jérôme séjourne un petit temps à Alexandrie et, trente jours durant, il y fréquente celui qui fut le dernier didascale de l’école théologique dont Origène fut la gloire, Didyme l’Aveugle, son maître « très clairvoyant », il l’interroge « sur tout ce qui lui paraît obscur dans l’Écriture » [13].

10. Il se fixe à Bethléem

Jérôme nous raconte que lors de son pèlerinage en Terre sainte, Paula s’était écriée à Bethléem :

• Moi, pauvre pécheresse, j’ai été jugée digne de baiser la crèche où le Seigneur a vagi tout petit enfant, de prier dans l’étable où la Vierge l’a mis au monde ! « Ah ! c’est ici mon repos, c’est la patrie de mon Dieu ! C’est là que j’habiterai puisque le Sauveur l’a choisie ! J’ai préparé une lumière à mon Christ. Mon âme vivra pour lui et ma race le servira » (Ps 131 et 21).

Lettre 108 à Eustochium, Éloge funèbre de Paula

Or, voici qu’en 386 Jérôme et quelques moines, Paula, sa fille Eustochium et quelques moniales se fixent définitivement à Bethléem pour y mener, dans l’austérité, la prière et l’étude, la vie monastique. Cette stabilité au pays de la Bible assurera aux études scripturaires de Jérôme des conditions de travail exceptionnelles.

Paula consacra sa fortune à l’édification des deux monastères, celui des moniales comprenait trois logis distincts. La construction dura trois ans, pendant lesquels on habita dans de très modestes logis :

• Dans la petite ferme du Christ, tout est champêtre, hors les psaumes, c’est le silence.

Lettre 46 de Paula et Eustochium à Marcella

• Les moniales étaient obligées de savoir les psaumes et devaient tous les jours apprendre quelque chose des saintes Écritures.

Lettre 108

Le monastère de Jérôme compta jusqu’à cinquante moines, Jérôme en était l’animateur, une sorte d’Abbé de cénobites [14], son frère Paulinien était l’économe. Jérôme faisait des homélies aux moines, visitait le monastère des moniales, recevait de très nombreux hôtes, ce dont il se plaint à la fois et se réjouit, sans cesse interrompu dans son travail auquel il consacre une grande partie de ses nuits, mais entouré d’admirateurs et d’amis. On le pense bien cependant, Jérôme n’avait pas que des amis !

Quelques orages vinrent bouleverser la vie studieuse de Jérôme : ce fut d’abord la terrible querelle origéniste qui ruina l’amitié de Jérôme et de Rufin. Ce n’est pas sans tristesse qu’on assiste à sa rupture. En vain, saint Augustin et sainte Paula s’interposèrent pour ménager une réconciliation qui fût définitive. En 375, écrivant à Rufin avec tendresse, Jérôme lui disait :

• L’affection n’a pas de prix. Une amitié qui peut cesser ne fut jamais sincère.

Lettre 3

Maintenant, au contraire, Jérôme ne peut plus souffrir Rufin qui à Jérusalem, sur le Mont des Oliviers, menait la vie monastique non loin du monastère de moniales dirigé par Mélanie l’Ancienne. La querelle origéniste exaspéra une inimitié déjà latente. Voici, à titre d’exemple, comment Jérôme parle de Rufin plus de dix ans après sa grande colère causée par la lutte origéniste :

• J’apprends qu’un scorpion, animal muet et venimeux, murmure je ne sais quoi au sujet de ma réponse… ou plutôt qu’il s’efforce de tourner contre moi une piqûre dont il crèvera lui-même.

Commentaire sur Isaïe 10

Et tandis que Jérôme était lui-même « chef d’école » enseignant malgré le « songe » d’autrefois les auteurs profanes à de jeunes garçons, il met un malin plaisir à caricaturer Rufin professeur, et cela après le décès de celui-ci survenu en 410 :

• Pour parler, c’était une tortue ! À longs intervalles, il trouvait à peine quelques mots, vous auriez dit des sanglots plutôt que des phrases. Dans sa chaire, derrière une barricade de livres, les sourcils froncés, les narines contractées, le front ridé, il claquait des deux doigts pour attirer l’attention des élèves et puis il proférait de pures inepties et déclamait contre chacun !

Lettre 125

Voici en quels termes il annonce la mort de Rufin survenue en Sicile :

• Le Scorpion est écrasé sur le sol de Sicile !

Commentaire sur Ézéchiel, Prologue

A la querelle origéniste succédèrent les polémiques contre des détracteurs de l’idéal monastique, Jovinien qui rabaissait la virginité et blâmait le jeûne et Vigilantius, ce vigilant que Jérôme appelle l’« endormi » ou « le bonnet de nuit » qui s’en prenait aussi au culte des saints. Querelle pélagienne aussi, Pélage en personne étant venu en 415 en Palestine. Des bandes de pélagiens attaquèrent les deux monastères de Bethléem et incendièrent les bâtiments… Les nouvelles d’Italie étaient tragiques, les incursions de barbares ruinaient l’empire, Rome fut prise et mise à sac en 410 par Alaric. La veuve Marcella mourut, peu de temps après avoir été brutalisée par les Goths :

• La voix me manque. Les sanglots entrecoupent mes paroles pendant que je dicte. Elle est prise, la Ville qui s’empara de l’Univers.

Lettre 126

Paula était morte en 404. En 418, après une brève et soudaine maladie, Eustochium mourut à son tour. Ce décès inattendu brisa le vieux Jérôme :

• La dormition soudaine de la sainte et vénérable vierge Eustochium nous a tout à fait désolé et elle a presque changé notre manière de vivre car nous ne pouvons plus en bien des choses réaliser nos desseins et l’ardeur de l’esprit est mise en échec par l’infirmité de la vieillesse.

Lettre à Riparius

On ne sait rien des derniers jours de Jérôme. Il mourut le 30 septembre 419 ou 420.



II. Œuvres

1. L’œuvre essentielle : les travaux bibliques

Les révisions de textes bibliques

À la demande du pape Damase qui orienta ainsi son labeur scientifique, Jérôme remania le texte latin des évangiles, celui aussi du psautier d’après les Septante (en 384).

Jérôme révise aussi le texte latin de l’Ancien Testament d’après les Septante et l’original hébreu : il se base sur les Hexaples d’Origène. De cet immense travail, presque rien ne subsiste : le livre de Job et celui des psaumes. On vola ce texte à Jérôme de son vivant (Lettre 134). On comprend que ce travailleur acharné qui consacrait ses nuits à un labeur incroyable en ait été ulcéré !

Les traductions de textes bibliques

De 391 à 406, Jérôme entreprend de traduire tout l’Ancien Testament sur le texte original hébreu : avec amour et respect, il s’efforce de retrouver le texte même de l’Écriture, la vérité hébraïque pour laquelle il a un culte mérité :

• Nous avons l’obligation d’interpréter l’Écriture telle qu’elle est lue à l’église, mais d’autre part nous n’avons pas le droit de sacrifier la vérité hébraïque.

Comm. sur Michée, 1, 16

La Vulgate, c’est-à-dire le texte latin officiel de la Bible utilisé dans l’Église et dont l’autorité a été sanctionnée au Concile de Trente, est composée en majeure partie par les traductions de Jérôme. En 1933, le pape Pie XI confia au monastère bénédictin de saint Jérôme à Rome la tâche de réaliser une édition critique de la Vulgate.

Les Commentaires exégétiques

On se souviendra que Jérôme fut d’abord un disciple d’Origène et qu’il le répudia ensuite : en conséquence, on remarque dans son œuvre exégétique un glissement progressif du sens allégorique vers le seul sens littéral [15].

Dans l’ensemble, le travail de commentateur de Jérôme est très rapide et quelque peu superficiel :

• Aussi vite que va la main du scribe court ma dictée.

Comm. sur Isaïe V, Prologue

Jérôme a commenté tous les prophètes et avec prédilection Isaïe sur lesquels il a plusieurs ouvrages : son grand commentaire, six homélies Sur la Vision d’Isaïe (en 381), un commentaire de Dix visions d’Isaïe (en 397). Le commentaire sur Jérémie a été interrompu par la mort de Jérôme.

• Je tâcherai d’exposer Isaïe de façon qu’il apparaisse non seulement comme prophète mais en même temps comme évangéliste et comme apôtre.

Comm. sur Isaïe, Prologue

• Eustochium, vierge du Christ, toi qui m’as soutenu de tes prières pendant ma maladie, implore pour moi la grâce du Christ afin qu’animé de l’esprit dans lequel les prophètes ont prédit l’avenir, je puisse pénétrer leur nuée obscure et comprendre la parole de Dieu que n’entendent pas les oreilles du corps mais celles du cœur.

Comm. sur Isaïe, XI

Le grand Commentaire sur Ezéchiel fut écrit entre 410 et 414 tandis que les réfugiés fuyant l’Italie dévastée par les barbares affluent. Comme celui sur Isaïe, ce commentaire est dédié à la chère Eustochium.

• Je dicte ces pages à la tremblotante lueur de ma lampe. L’exégèse me permet de dissiper un peu la tristesse de mon âme bouleversée… Comment rester insensible au spectacle de la cruauté des barbares ?

Comm. sur Ezéchiel VIII

Il faut mentionner encore les commentaires Sur les psaumes, l’Ecclésiaste, et, pour le Nouveau Testament, les Commentaires sur saint Matthieu, et quatre épîtres de saint Paul : la lettre à Philémon, l’épître aux Galates, celle aux Ephésiens et celle à Tite. Relevons cette louange à la veuve Marcella qui vient de perdre sa mère Albina :

• Je sais qu’elle oublie tout ce qui est humain et qu’au son éclatant des lettres sacrées, elle traverse hardiment la mer Rouge du siècle.

Comm. de l’ép. aux Gal. Préface

Ailleurs, ce mot charmant sur Virgile, le poète tant aimé maintenant délaissé au profit de l’étude des Écritures :

• Pensez à l’infirmité de mes yeux, à la faiblesse de mon corps. Je ne peux écrire moi-même. Je ne puis corriger la pesanteur du discours par le travail et le poli du style comme le faisait Virgile qui léchait ses livres comme une ourse lèche ses petits ! J’en suis réduit à un secrétaire, je dicte ce qui me vient aux lèvres. Si je veux réfléchir un peu, son silence me le reproche !

Comm. ép. aux Gal., Préface au livre III

Il faut signaler encore d’autres travaux bibliques : les Questions hébraïques sur la Genèse qui témoigne de la parfaite maîtrise que Jérôme avait de l’hébreu et aussi de son sens critique, et deux traductions : celle d’un Dictionnaire de noms propres de la Bible (Philon d’Alexandrie) et d’un Dictionnaire des noms de lieux (Eusèbe de Césarée)



2. Traductions d’auteurs ecclésiastiques

D’Origène

14 Homélies sur Jérémie, 14 Homélies sur Ezéchiel, 2 Homélies sur le Cantique des cantiques, 39 Homélies sur saint Luc, 8 Homélies sur Isaïe.

Après la querelle origéniste, 4 livres du Péri Archôn (le De Principiis) s’opposent à la traduction que Rufin fit du même livre.

De Didyme l’Aveugle

Le Traité du Saint-Esprit (en 392) : Jérôme y dénonce les larcins d’une « déplaisante corneille », il s’agit de saint Ambroise qui en effet s’est inspiré de Didyme dans son Traité du Saint-Esprit, comme Jérôme s’inspirait sans cesse et partout d’Origène sans le citer, « dans le feu de la dictée, les guillemets fondent » [16].

De Pachôme et de ses disciples

Les Règles monastiques et les Lettres [17].

D’Eusèbe de Césarée

Outre le Dictionnaire biblique déjà cité, la 2e partie de sa Chronique (livre historique).

3. Œuvres polémiques

L’Altercatio c’est-à-dire le Dialogue entre un Luciférien et un Orthodoxe combat les opinions erronées de Lucifer de Cagliari qui niait la validité du baptême conféré par les ariens.

Le Contre Jovinien et le Contre Vigilantius dont nous avons déjà parlé. Les deux écrits constituent une défense de la vie monastique contre ses détracteurs.

Les Dialogues contre les Pélagiens.

Deux écrits nés de la querelle origéniste : le Contre Jean de Jérusalem en 396 qui fut suivi la même année par une sincère tentative de réconciliation entre les adversaires, l’évêque Jean et Rufin d’une part et Jérôme de l’autre et en 401-402 la terrible Apologie contre Rufin qui consomme la rupture.

4. Œuvres historiques

Le De viris (Des hommes illustres) en 393, compte 135 notices d’auteurs chrétiens. L’importance de ce petit récit comme source de la patrologie a été soulignée.

Les Vies de Paul de Thèbes (en 376), de Malchus (390), d’Hilarion (vers 391) sont trois charmants récits, trois romans populaires.

Pour ne pas froisser la susceptibilité de Jérôme, nous avons classé parmi les œuvres historiques ces belles histoires romanesques, mais Jérôme est le seul à croire à leur historicité ! Les données historiques primitives fournissent un canevas aux broderies de l’imagination. Ces jolis contes ont toutefois leur raison d’être : ils sont des « codes d’ascèse mis en action » [18]. Et puis « Hilarion savait par cœur les divines Écritures » [19] !

5. Homélies

Les homélies de Jérôme furent prononcées à Bethléem pour sa communauté monastique. Dom Morin les a publiées pour la première fois en 1897 et en 1903 : Homélies sur les psaumes, sur Isaïe, sur aint Marc et sur divers textes de la Bible, en tout 95 homélies.


6. Lettres

Le recueil de lettres se compose de 150 numéros, 117 lettres sont de Jérôme, 26 lui sont adressées. Cette correspondance s’étend sur une période de 45 ans.

Les Lettres sont une source de première valeur pour l’étude de la vie de Jérôme, de son style, de son caractère, de sa passion de l’Écriture. On peut y glaner bien des conseils excellents qui formeraient un manuel d’ascèse, un guide de vie monastique, un guide aussi de vie chrétienne dans le monde.

Mais que de caricatures cruelles, dessinées d’ailleurs de main de maître Que de traits blessants, que de mots durs aussi contre le mariage. Le langage outrancier de Jérôme dépare ses plus belles pages. Et on n’est pas sans éprouver quelque malaise devant certains de ses conseils :

• Qu’en toutes choses, ta parole soit modérée et sobre… veille à ne pas avoir à regretter ce que tu diras… En tout ce que tu dis, que ton âme reste tranquille et paisible… Que ton esprit soit humble et doux…

Lettre 148 à Cleantia, femme mariée

D’autre part, c’est justice de constater que le même texte poursuit : « Que ton esprit se dresse seulement contre les vices » et cela, Jérôme l’a fait. Et que dire alors de ces mots émouvants :

• Moi qui donne des conseils, pourquoi ne suis-je pas tel que je désire que tu sois ?… Les paroles que je prononce ne sont pas de moi, mais du Seigneur et Sauveur ; mes conseils ne portent pas sur ce que je pourrais faire moi-même, mais sur ce que doit vouloir ou faire celui qui veut devenir le serviteur du Christ. Les athlètes aussi sont plus forts que ceux qui les oignent.

Lettre 118 à Julien

Conclusion

Jérôme possède une sensibilité extrême. Nerveux et passionné, tout en contrastes, il sut aimer jusqu’à la plus délicate tendresse et haïr jusqu’à la grossièreté et la plus cinglante colère. Sa haine exacerbée s’adresse le plus souvent aux vices et à l’hérésie, mais elle atteint rudement ceux qui en sont les responsables ou les victimes et il lui arrive, hélas, de s’aveugler elle-même.

Cet impatient en impatiente beaucoup ! Aussi bien, où se ranger : parmi la foule de ceux qui l’admirent et qui l’aiment ou parmi le groupe de ceux qui ne peuvent le souffrir ?

Parions qu’il y a tout à gagner à se mettre aux côtés de Paula, de Marcella et d’Eustochium ! Nous aurons souvent, comme Marcella, les sourcils froncés, « le front ridé et le doigt sur la bouche » (Lettre 27) mais, du moins, nous entendrons Jérôme, ce philologue et cet exégète, nous traduire, nous commenter l’Ecriture et nous révéler ainsi sa passion du Christ, seul Maître de ce maître qui se cherchait des disciples ! Jérôme est l’homme de l’Écriture sainte et telle est sa grandeur. Si les exégètes peuvent aujourd’hui le surpasser, c’est grâce encore à son impérissable labeur. Jérôme est aussi un guide spirituel et un maître d’ascèse.

Et si d’aucuns répugnaient à se joindre au cercle de l’Aventin par trop soumis, il est une autre place de choix ! Qu’ils se rangent aux côtés d’Augustin, l’évêque d’Hippone ! Rien de significatif comme la correspondance échangée entre ces deux Docteurs de l’Église latine ! Augustin, le Pasteur, incompétent en sciences hébraïques, ose faire à Jérôme une remarque à propos de ses traductions ! Ulcéré, Jérôme sort ses griffes : est-ce parce qu’il est évêque que ce jeune blanc-bec cherche à en remontrer à un vieux maître ?

Consterné, Augustin répond avec humilité et douceur et le Docteur de la charité exhorte à la charité en reconnaissant ses torts, en posant des questions… Et voici que soudain Jérôme, ce vieux lion, dompté, se couche aux pieds d’Augustin [20]. Il en vient à reconnaître, en toute sincérité, la supériorité d’Augustin : que valent, dit-il, ses pauvres discussions avec les Pélagiens auprès de celles d’Augustin, ce théologien et ce penseur ?

« La charité est patiente, elle excuse tout, elle endure tout » [21] : elle a su apaiser… même un saint Jérôme

[1] PL 28, 1082 B, préface de la traduction du livre de Job.

[2] P. ANTIN, Introduction de saint Jérôme, Sur Jonas, Paris 1956, SC N° 43, p. 7-8.

[3] Voir le beau témoignage qu’en donne le récit de saint Augustin (Confessions, VIII, 6, 15).

[4] Dans la Lettre 11, Jérôme parle du « susurrement des calomniateurs ». Jérôme l’écrit aux vierges d’Haemona auxquelles, non loin d’Aquilée, il faisait des conférences. Steinmann suppose, comme d’autres d’ailleurs, que les visites de Jérôme aux moniales provoquèrent des calomnies : J. STEINMANN, Saint Jérôme, Paris 1958, p. 42.

[5] Saint Augustin, avant sa conversion, a une réaction identique, une réaction de rhéteur : Confessions, III, 5, 9 : « Les Écritures m’ont paru indignes d’entrer en comparaison avec la dignité cicéronienne ! »

[6] Dans la même Lettre 22. Le récit du songe de Jérôme est une de ses pages les plus célèbres.

[7] J . STEINMANN, op. cit., p. 54.

[8] P. ANTIN, Essai sur Saint Jérôme, Paris 1951, p. 65.

[9] Apollinaire de Laodicée fut condamné comme hérétique : il refusait de reconnaître au Christ un principe d’animation non divin et donc une âme humaine.

[10] Saint JEROME, De vir.

[11] P. ANTIN, op. cit., p. 89.

[12] Cf. Règle de saint Benoît, ch. 53.

[13] Prologue du Commentaire de l’épitre aux Éphésiens.

[14] L’expression est de Paul Antin, (op. cit., p. 109.)

[15] Ce que Steinmann appelle une « désintoxication », op. cit., p. 368. Dire cela sans nuances, c’est se montrer injuste envers Origène qui n’est certes pas un poison !

[16] P. ANTIN, op. cit., p. 160.

[17] Une édition critique en a été donnée : Pachomiana latina, A. BOON, Louvain 1932.

[18] P. ANTIN, op. cit., p. 123.

[19] Vie d’Hilarion, 3.

[20] Pourquoi dans l’iconographie Jérôme a-t-il si souvent un doux lion auprès de lui ? Tout simplement parce qu’il y eut une confusion de noms : ce lion est celui d’un Père du désert, saint Gérasime, un lion reconnaissant parce que Gérasime avait arraché une épine de sa patte ! Quant au joli chapeau rouge de cardinal ? C’est un bel anachronisme ! Le chapeau date du XIIIe s., il fut voulu par Innocent IV qui l’imposa à ses cardinaux ! Mais Jérôme avait bel et bien reçu le titre honorifique de « prêtre-cardinal » du pape Libère.

[21] 1 Co 13, 4.7.

Source :

SOEUR GABRIEL PETERS, Lire les Pères de l’Église. Cours de patrologie, DDB, 1981.
Avec l’aimable autorisation des Éditions Migne.

SOURCE : http://www.patristique.org/Les-Peres-de-l-Eglise-latine-II-Jerome.html#vie


Saint Jérôme

Docteur de l'Eglise

Je suis à la fois, disait Jérôme, philosophe, rhéteur, grammairien, dialecticien, expert en hébreu, grec et latin ; il fut aussi un polémiste redoutable, parfois injuste, tel ce jour où il invectiva saint Augustin, son cadet d’à peine cinq ans : Ecoute mon conseil, jeune homme : ne viens pas, dans l'arêne des Ecritures, provoquer un vieillard ! Tu troubles mon silence. Tu fais la roue avec ta science.

« Hierônumos en grec (celui dont le nom est sacré) ; Hieronymus, en latin, fils d'Eusèbe, je naquis à Stridon, ville maintenant détruite par les Goths, mais qui se situait alors sur les confins de la Dalmatie et de la Pannonie (Hongrie) », écrit-il, en 392, à la dernière page du De viris illustribus, ajoutant : « Je suis né chrétien, de parents chrétiens. Dès le berceau, je fus nourri du lait catholique. » Il dit encore de lui-même : « Je suis à la fois philosophe, rhéteur, grammairien, dialecticien, expert en hébreu, grec et latin. »

Enfant unique pendant treize ans, Jérôme fut terriblement gâté par les siens jusqu’à ce que naquissent sa sœur et son frère. Il étudia à Milan, puis à Rome où il suivit les cours du célèbre grammairien Aelius Donatus. Elève doué mais difficile et facétieux, Jérôme respira les parfums de cette ville puissante, maîtresse du monde, alors gouvernée par Julien l'Apostat. Admirateur de Cicéron, il déclamait les grands plaidoyers les exordes sonores qui lui servirent lors d’un stage auprès des tribunaux. Il se lia avec Bonose et Rufin, deux compagnons d'étude. Avec soin et à grands frais, il acquit des livres et, peut-être, goûta-t-il de furtifs amours au milieu des danses des jeunes filles romaines.

Cependant, confia-t-il dans son commentaire d’Ezéchiel (XI 5) « Quand j’étais à Rome, jeune étudiant ès-arts libéraux, j’avais accoutumé, le dimanche, avec d’autres de même âge et de même résolution, de visiter les tombeaux des apôtres et des martyrs. Souvent nous entrions dans ces cryptes creusées dans les profondeurs de la terre où l’on avance entre des morts ensevelis à droite et à gauche le long des parois. Tout est si obscur que la parole du Prophète est presque réalisée : qu’ils descendent vivants dans les enfers ! Ici et là, une clarté venue d’en-haut tempère l’horreur des ténèbres : moins une fenêtre qu’un trou foré, croirait-on, par la clarté qui tombe. Puis, pas à pas, on revient, et dans la nuit noire qui vous entoure, le vers de Virgile est obsédant : Tout suscite l’horreur et le silence même. » Il reçut le baptême, en 366, sans doute des mains du pape Libère.

Jérôme, hébergé par son ami Bonose, séjourna d'abord à Trèves, résidence impériale de Valentinien I°, où il approfondit la théologie ; en 373, il était à Aquilée, centre économique et littéraire, où, avec Rufin et Bonose, il fonda une académie sous l'égide de l'évêque Chromatius ; « les clercs d’Aquilée forment comme un chœur de bienheureux », dira-t-il dans la Chronique.

Quand, pour d’obscures raisons, le groupe se disloqua, Jérôme partit à Antioche de Syrie où, un jour du carême 375, il tomba si gravement malade qu'on le crut aux portes de la mort. Ce lui fut une expérience mystique : « En esprit, je m'imaginai transporté devant le tribunal du Souverain Juge. Voici la confrontation. Interrogé sur ma conduite, je déclare : Je suis chrétien. - Tu mens, me réplique le Juge suprême : Tu es cicéronien, non pas chrétien ; là où est ton trésor, là aussi est ton cœur. Je m'exclame alors : Seigneur, si jamais je retiens les livres du siècle, c'est que je t'aurai renié. » (Epître XX 30). Rétabli mais sans cesse taraudé par fautes passées, il se retira dans la solitude de Chalcis, au sud de Beroea (Alep) ; il s’imposait une rude ascèse mais, en même temps, il s’adonnait à l’étude du grec et de l'hébreu. « Combien de fois, installé au désert, en cette vaste solitude torréfiée d'un ardent soleil, affreux habitat offert aux moines, je me suis cru mêlé aux plaisirs de Rome ! ... Les jeûnes avaient pâli mon visage, mais les désirs enflammaient mon esprit, le corps restant glacé. Devant ce pauvre homme déjà moins chair vivante que cadavre, grondaient seulement les incendies de la volupté. » (Lettre CCXXVII, à Eustochium)

Dans sa solitude, les âpres controverses sur la Trinité, ne manquèrent pas de lui parvenir ; il écrivit par deux fois au pape Damase, sans recevoir la moindre réponse. Pour accepter d’être ordonné prêtre par Paulin d'Antioche, en 378, Jérôme, soucieux de son indépendance, avait posé deux conditions aussi singulières que paradoxales : ne pas être astreint aux fonctions ministérielles pastorales et demeurer libre de ses mouvements. Cependant, se jugeant indigne de monter à l'autel, il ne célèbra jamais la messe.

En 379, il partit auprès de saint Grégoire de Nazianze qui réorganisait l’Eglise de Constantinople. Jérôme traduisit et compléta la Chronique d'Eusèbe de Césarée et les Homélies d’Origène. Epiphane de Salamine et Paulin d’Antioche, convoqués à Rome pour un concile sur les affaires d'Orient, emmenèrent Jérôme qu’ils présentèrent au Pape (382). Le pape Damase vit tout le parti qu’il pouvait tirer de ce moine érudit, en provenance de Constantinople qui venait de lui dédier une traduction des Deux homélies d'Origène sur le Cantique ; il l’engagea comme conseiller pour les affaires d'Orient et consulteur biblique : Révisez donc le texte peu satisfaisant des Evangiles, lui demanda-t-il : Je m'y appliquerai d'après les sources complémentaires : manuscrits grecs et textes en hébreu. Ce fut fait, avec une correction complète du Psautier.

Connaissez-vous Jérôme, demandait-on à Rome, ce stupéfiant érudit ? Savez-vous qu'il donne des conférences très doctes et fort suivies ? - En quel lieu je vous prie ? - Mais sur l'Aventin, au palais de la veuve Marcella et de la noble Albine, sa mère. Bientôt, les dames de la société dont Paula et ses deux filles, Eustochium et Blésilia, coururent se faire conseiller par le savant personnage, rassembleur de matrones qui ne manqua pas de se faire de solides ennemis parmi les jaloux qui, à la mort de Damase (11 décembre 384) dénoncèrent ce moine, coqueluche des dames ; ulcéré, Jérôme qui proclamait que la virginité consacrée doit rester reine, rugit contre Helvidius qui prétendait que tous les états de vie se valent. Sois la cigale des nuits ! Veille comme le passereau, sur un toit désert... Ne faut-il pas pleurer et gémir, quand le serpent nous présente encore le fruit défendu ? Que me veux-tu, volupté qui passe si vite ? ... Je t'en conjure, ma chère Eustochium, ma fille, ma souveraine, ma compagne, ma soeur... Je t'appelle de ces noms puisque mon âge, ta vertu, notre profession, me le permettent ... Laisse, au-dehors, errer les vierges folles (S. Matthieu XXV 8-13). Reste au dedans. Ferme la porte et prie(Epître XXII 18 : Voeux à Eustochium, vierge fidèle).

Au mois d’août 385, calomnié et persécuté, à bout de patience, il secoua sur l'ingrate Rome la poussière de sessandales (Matthieu VI 11) : D'après eux, je serais donc : fourbe, séducteur, suppôt de Satan... Il en est qui me baisent les mains et, d'autre part, me déchirent d'une langue de vipère. Ils affectent de me plaindre mais, au tréfonds, ils se réjouissent de mon malheur... l'un calomnie ma démarche et mon rire ; l'autre soupçonne ma simplicité... Et je vécus près de trois ans avec ces Romains ! C'est à la hâte que je vous confie ces souffrances. Je m'embarque aujourd'hui, triste et les yeux gonflés de larmes (Epître XLV à Asella).

Parti vers la Palestine avec une dizaine de dames romaines, il logea chez Epiphane de Salamine, à Chypre, où Paula et Eustochium vinrent le rejoindre avant qu’il partît pour l’Egypte. En Alexandrie, il consulta Didyme l'aveugle, voyant spirituel, exégète subtil et vulgarisateur génial (Lettre CXII 4). Les pèlerins enthousiasmèrent et édifièrent les monastères de Nitrie, puis ils entrèrent en Terre-Sainte. Notre chère Paula y fit visite de la crèche du Sauveur. Quand elle vit la sainte retraite de la Vierge et l'étable, elle protesta en ma présence qu'elle voyait, comme si elle les eût sous les yeux : l'Enfant enveloppé de langes, le Seigneur vagissant dans l'étable, les mages l'adorant, l'étoile brillant sur la crèche, la Vierge devenue mère, Joseph lui prodiguant ses soins, les pasteurs veillant de nuit, pour contempler la vérité du Verbe (Epître CVIII 6, 14 : éloge funèbre de Paula).

Depuis 377, après avoir séjourné six ans en Egypte, près de Didyme l’aveugle, Tyrannius Rufin d'Aquilée, l’ami de Jérôme, ordonné prêtre par l’évêque Jean, s’était établi à Jérusalem comme conseiller spirituel de Mélanie l'ancienne, noble dame romaine, avec qui, sur le Mont des Oliviers, il animait un monastère double (moines d'un côté et moniales de l'autre) ; en 386, Jérôme et Paula imitèrent son exemple à Bethléem : Jérôme priait, se mortifiait, étudiait, travaillait manuellement, faisait la direction spirituelle de ses moniales : Cette solitude m'est un vrai paradis !

Dès 389, il a révisé la version latine de l'Ancien Testament, selon les Hexaples d'Origène (du grec Hexaplos, sextuple : texte en hébreu, même version en lettres grecques, quatre versions grecques différentes). Vint ensuite un seconde révision du Psautier pour le rendre plus conforme à la Septante (version grecque établie, entre 250 et 130 avant J. C. , par 70 rabins d'Alexandrie), puis le Livre de Job, les Paralipomènes et les livres salomoniens.

En même temps, sous la conduite du juif Baranina, Jérôme se remit à l'étude systématique de l'hébreu et entreprit une nouvelle relecture annotée de l'Ancien Testament, recherchant à en rendre le mot, la pensée et le style, mais se heurtant à la pauvreté du latin, soit pour sauvegarder l'hebraïca veritas, soit pour rendre la nuance grecque. Pour ma part, non seulement je confesse mais encore je professe, sans gêne et tout haut : quand je traduis les Grecs - sauf dans les Saintes Ecritures où l'ordre des mots est aussi un mystère - ce n'est pas un mot par un mot mais une idée par une idée que j'exprime. (Lettre LVII 5, adressée à Pammachius ).

Origène (+ 254), fut un puissant génie dont l'œuvre gigantesque fut amplement exploitée par les Pères cappadociens et latins : saint Athanase l’opposa aux ariens, saint Grégoire de Nysse y puisa sa mystique, saint Hilaire de Poitiers s’en imprégna, saint Ambroise le plagia, et saint Augustin s'en pénètra ; saint Jérôme lui-même se déclara tributaire d’Origène le Grand, après que saint Grégoire de Naziance le réputa la pierre qui nous aiguise tous, et que Didyme l’aveugle l’appela le maître des églises après l’apôtre. Il n’en reste pas moins que la doctrine origéniste, conservée par Evagre le Pontique et professée par des moines égyptiens et palestiniens est hétérodoxe[1].

Au début de 393, le moine Artabius visitant les monastères, présenta un formulaire accablant contre Origène qui erra, sur les questions dogmatiques : trinité, incarnation, résurrection, jugement dernier. Jérôme signa la condamnation que Rufin refusa. A Pâque, Epiphane de Salamine, en pèlerinage à Jérusalem, accusa l'évêque Jean d'origénisme. L'opinion publique s'agita, des bagarres éclatèrent dans la basilique du Saint-Sépulcre entre moines de clans opposés. Soutenu par Rufin Jean durcit sa position, tandis qu’Epiphane se retirait à Bethléem, dans un monastère hiéronymite. Pour conjurer le schisme, le subtil Théophile, patriarche d'Alexandrie, força Rufin et Jérôme à la réconciliation, mais, en réalité, tous deux campaient sur leurs positions.

Retourné à Rome, Rufin publia une traduction des Principes d'Origène, en biffant les passages qu'il jugeait contraires à la foi chrétienne, réputés simples interpolations faites par des mains étrangères. Il écrivit à Jérôme : Jadis admiratif d'un génie, premier mainteneur de l'Eglise après les apôtres, tu le pourfends aujourd'hui ! Indigne volte-face ! A quoi Jérôme répliqua : J'ai loué sa doctrine et son intelligence, non pas sa foi : j'approuve le philosophe et je désapprouve l'apôtre. Rufin adressa sa première Apologie au pape Anastase (400) et, cinq ans plus tard, il rédigea la deuxième pour répondre aux objections de Jérôme. Rufin poursuivit ses travaux jusqu'à sa mort (410), laissant vociférer le lion de Bethléem qui le qualifiait de scorpion, hydre, serpent, porc aux grognements indécents. La question dogmatique ne sera close qu'en 553, au II° concile de Constantinople.

Voilà qu’un dangereux exalté, le moine Pélage (360-422), venu de Grande-Bretagne, s’établit successivement à Rome, en Afrique et en Palestine. C’était un disciple d'Origène qui commentait les épîtres de saint Paul selon une exégèse fallacieuse dont on pouvait conclure que le péché originel ne serait qu'un mythe, puisque, même avant sa faute, Adam aurait été créé mortel et déjà sujet à la concupiscence ; donc, après la chute, parce que le vouloir et le faire de l'homme serait demeurés intacts, le baptême n’effacerait que les péchés actuels et ce serait une simple d'entrée dans l'Eglise.

Dans les Dialogues contre les pélagiens, Jérôme réfuta ces propositions hérétiques et accentua ses critiques dans la Lettre à Ctésiphon. Il félicitera saint Augustin de ses pamphlets antipélagiens. Les hérétiques réagirent vivement, surtout Julien d'Eclane, réfugié en Orient, et la lutte fut si féroce que certains commentateurs attribuèrent aux troupes pélagiennes une expédition punitive contre les monastères hiéronymiens (416) où l’on tua un diacre et incendia les bâtiments ; assiégé dans une tour fortifiée, Jérôme échappa de justesse : Notre maison, par rapport aux ressources matérielles, fut complètement ruinée par les persécutions des hérétiques. Toutefois, le Christ est avec nous. La demeure reste donc remplie de richesses spirituelles. Mieux vaut mendier son pain que de perdre la foi (Conclusion de l'épîtreCXXIV).

Pendant quinze ans, de rudes coups accablèrent le vieil exégète acharné à son travail, mais taraudé par des maux d'estomac. Paula mourut le 26 janvier 404 : Adieu, Paula. Par tes prières, tu soutenais la viellesse défaillante d'un homme qui tant te vénéra. Maintenant que ta foi et tes oeuvres t'unissent au Christ, tu intercèderas plus facilement pour lui. En 410, quand le wisigoth Alaric envahit l'Italie et pilla Rome. le vieux patriote vit, dans ce crépuscule des aigles, l'écroulement d'un monde : Elle s'est donc éteinte, la lumière la plus brillante de tous les continents. Plus précisément, l'empire vient d'avoir la tête tranchée. Pour dire l'entière vérité : en une ville, c'est l'univers entier qui périt (Prologue au commentaire sur Ezéchiel ", XXV 16 a). A la fin de l'année 418, la deuxième fille de Paula, Eustochium, meurt subitement : Cette mort soudaine me laisse désemparé. Elle a changé ma vie. Effectivement, à partir de là, et pendant deux ans, Jérôme, d'ordinaire si loquace, se tait. Nous ne savons rien des derniers jours de Jérôme qui mourut en 419 ou en 420, âgé, dit la Chronique de Prosper, de quatre-vingt-onze ans.
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[1] La création est conçue comme un acte éter¬nel. La toute puissance et la bonté de Dieu ne peuvent jamais rester sans objet d’activité. Dans une émanation éternelle, le Fils procède de Dieu et du Fils procède le Saint-Esprit. Un monde d’esprits également parfaits a précédé le monde visible actuel, mais a fait défection une partie de ces esprits à qui appartenaient aussi les âmes préexistantes, et c’est pourquoi ces esprits ont été exilés dans la matière créée seulement alors. Les différences entre les hommes sur la terre et la mesure des grâces que Dieu donne à chacun, se règlent sur leur culpabilité dans un monde antérieur. Les âmes de ceux qui ont commis des péchés sur la terre, vont après la mort dans un feu de purification, mais peu à peu toutes, aussi les démons, montent de degré en degré pour, finalement, entièrement purifiées, ressus¬citer dans des corps éthérés, et Dieu sera tout en tous.


Lettre à Fabiola

Quiconque est versé dans la science des divines écritures et reconnaît dans leurs lois et leurs témoignages des liens de vérité, pourra combattre ses adversaires, les enchaîner, les réduire en captivité, puis, d'anciens ennemis et de misérables captifs, faire des enfants de Dieu.

Saint Jérôme

C'est dans les eaux profondes et vivifiantes de la Vulgate que nos littérateurs se sont abreuvés... L'auteur a inventé cette syntaxe, ce style et cette langue à la fois très populaire et très noble, qui anticipe sur les langues romanes et a sûrement joué un grand rôle dans leur constitution... Pontife, en vérité, celui qui a donné la Bible hébraïque au monde occidental et construit un large viaduc qui relie Jérusalem à Rome et Rome à tous les peuples

Valéry Larbaud : Sous l'invocation de Saint Jérôme

« Celui qui hait son frère est un meurtrier » (S. Jean III 15). Telle est la claire affirmation de Jean, apôtre et évangéliste, et il la fait à juste titre car il n’est que trop vrai que le meurtre naît souvent de la haine. Son épée peut n’avoir jamais frappé un coup et pourtant celui qui hait, est déjà, dans son cœur, un meurtrier. Je vous en prie, dites-vous, pourquoi tout ce préambule ? Simplement pour vous demander avec insistance que nous enterrions les vieux ressentiments et préparions à Dieu un cœur pur où il puisse établir sa demeure. « Frémissez, nous dit David, mais ne péchez pas » (Psaume IV 5). L’apôtre explique ce verset avec plus de détails : « Que le soleil ne se couche pas sur votre colère » (S. Paul aux Ephésiens IV 26). Dites-moi, comment allons-nous affronter le jour du jugement ? Le soleil est témoin qu’il s’est couché sur notre co1ère non pas un jour, mais pendant bien des années. « Si tu présentes ton offrande à l’autel, dit Notre-Seigneur dans l’Evangile et que là tu te souviennes que ton frère a quelque chose contre toi, laisse là ton offrande devant l’autel et va d’abord te réconcilier avec ton frère, puis viens présenter ton offrande » (S. Matthieu V 23). Malheur à moi, vil misérable ! dois-je dire. Mais malheur également à vous ? Pendant tant d’années, ou nous n’avons point présenté d’offrandes à l’autel, ou nous en avons présenté tout en continuant à nourrir des griefs sans motif. Comment avons-nous jamais pu faire nôtre la prière quotidienne « Pardonnez-nous nos offenses comme nous pardonnons à ceux qui nous ont offensés » (S. Matthieu VI 12), alors que le cœur et la langue étaient tellement en désaccord, la supplication en contradiction avec la conduite ? C’est pourquoi je renouvelle maintenant la requête que je vous ai adressée dans ma précédente lettre l’an dernier. Conservons tous deux cette paix que nous a léguée Notre-Seigneur, et puisse le Christ jeter un regard favorable sur mon désir et sur votre intention. Bientôt l’harmonie rétablie ou l’harmonie brisée recevra sa récompense ou sa punition devant son Tribunal. Mais si vous me repoussez maintenant, ce qu’à Dieu ne plaise, la faute n’en retombera pas sur moi ; car une fois que vous l’aurez lue, cette lettre assurera mon acquittement.

Lettre de saint Jérôme à la sœur de sa mère, Castorina

SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/09/30.php


SAINT JÉRÔME *

Jérôme tire son étymologie de gerar, saint, et de nemus, bois, comme on dirait bois saint, ou bien de norna, qui veut dire loi. C'est pour cela que sa légende dit que Jérôme signifie loi sainte. En effet il fut saint, c'est-à-dire, ferme, ou pur, ou couvert de sang, ou destiné aux fonctions sacrées, comme l’on dit des vases sacrés du temple, qu'ils sont destinés à des usages saints. Il fut saint, c'est-à-dire, ferme en bonnes oeuvres, à cause de la longanimité de sa persévérance, et pur en son esprit : et couvert de sang, par la méditation de la passion du Seigneur : il fut consacré à de saints usages, en interprétant et en expliquant l’Écriture sainte. Il signifie bois; parce qu'il habita quelque temps dans un bois; il veut dire loi, par rapport à la discipline régulière qu'il enseigna, à ses moines, ou bien encore parce qu'il expliqua et interpréta la loi sainte. Jérôme signifie encore, vision de beauté, ou juge des discours. La beauté est multiple; la première est la spirituelle, qui réside dans l’âme; la seconde est la morale, qui consiste dans l’honnêteté des mœurs ; la troisième est l’intellectuelle, qui est la beauté des anges : la quatrième est la (137) supersubstantielle, qui appartient à Dieu; 1a cinquième est la céleste, qui réside dans la patrie des saints. Jérôme vit en lui et posséda cette quintuple beauté. Il posséda la spirituelle, dans ses différentes vertus; la morale, par l’honnêteté de sa vie ; l’intellectuelle, dans sa pureté éminente ; la supersubstantielle, dans son ardente charité ; la céleste, dans sa charité éternelle ou excellente. Il fut juge, des discours, des siens et de ceux des autres ; des siens, en ne parlant qu'avec poids ; de ceux des autres, en approuvant ce qu'ils contenaient de vrai, en réfutant ce qui s'y rencontrait de faux, et en exposant les choses douteuses.

Jérôme fut le fils d'un homme noble nommé Eusèbc, et originaire de la ville de Stridonie, sur les confins de la Dalmatie et de la Pannonie. Jeune encore, il alla à Rome où il étudia à fond les lettres grecques, latines et hébraïques. Son maître de grammaire fut Donat, et celui de rhétorique, l’orateur Victorin. Il s'adonnait nuit et jour à l’étude des saintes Ecritures. Il y puisa avec avidité ces connaissances qu'il répandit dans la suite avec abondance. A une époque, il le dit dans une lettre à Eustachius, comme il passait le jour à lire Cicéron et la nuit à lire Platon, parce que le style négligé des livres des Prophètes ne lui plaisait pas, vers le milieu du carême, il fut saisi d'une fièvre tellement subite et violente, que son corps se refroidit, et la, chaleur vitale s'était retirée dans sa poitrine. Déjà qu’on préparait ses funérailles, quand tout à coup, il est traîné au tribunal du souverain juge qui lui demanda quelle était sa qualité, il répondit ouvertement qu'il était chrétien. « Tu mens, lui dite juge; tu es cicéronien, tu n'es pas chrétien car où est ton trésor, là est ton coeur. » Jérôme se tut (133) alors et aussitôt le juge le fit fouetter fort rudement Jérôme se mit à crier : « Ayez pitié de moi, Seigneur, ayez pitié de moi. » Ceux qui étaient présents se mirent en même temps à prier le juge de pardonner à ce jeune homme. Celui-ci proféra ce serment : « Seigneur, si jamais je possède des livres profanes, si j'en lis, c'est que je vous renierai. » Sur ce serment, il fut renvoyé et soudain il revint à la vie. Alors il se trouva tout baigné de larmes, et il remarqua que ses épaules étaient affreusement livides des coups reçus devant le tribunal de Dieu. Depuis, il lut les livres divins avec le même zèle qu'il avait lu auparavant les livres païens. Il avait vingt-neuf ans quand il fut ordonné cardinal prêtre dans l’église romaine. A la mort du pape Libère, Jérôme fut acclamé par tous digne du souverain pontificat. Mais ayant repris la conduite lascive de quelques clercs et des moines, ceux-ci, indignés à l’excès, lui tendirent des pièges. D'après Jean Beleth, ce fut au moyen d'un vêtement de femme qu'ils se moquèrent de lui d'une façon honteuse. En effet Jérôme s'étant levé comme de coutume pour les matines trouva un habit de femme que ses envieux avaient mis auprès de son lit, et croyant que c'était le sien, il s'en revêtit et s'en alla ainsi à l’église. Or, ses ennemis avaient agi de la sorte afin qu'on crût à la présence d'une femme dans la chambre du saint. Celui-ci, voyant jusqu'où ils allaient, céda à leur fureur et se retira chez saint Grégoire de Nazianze, évêque de la ville de Constantinople Après avoir appris de lui les saintes lettres, il courut au désert et il y souffrit pour J.-C. tout ce qu'il raconte lui-même à Eustochium en ces termes : « Tout (134) le temps que je suis resté au désert et dans ces vastes solitudes qui, brûlées par les ardeurs du soleil, sont pour les moines une habitation horrible, je me croyais être au milieu des délices de Rome. Mes membres déformés étaient recouverts d'un cilice qui les rendait hideux; ma peau, devenue sale, avait pris la couleur de la chair des Ethiopiens. Tous les jours se passaient dans les larmes ; tous les jours des gémissements, et si quelquefois un sommeil importun venait m’accabler, la terre nue servait de lit à mes os desséchés. Je ne parle point du boire ni du manger, quand les malades eux-mêmes usent d'eau froide, et quand manger quelque chose de cuit est un péché de luxure : et tandis que je n'avais pour compagnons que les scorpions et les bêtes sauvages, souvent je me trouvais en esprit dans les assemblées des jeunes filles ; et dans un corps froid, dans une chair déjà morte, le feu de la débauche m’embrasait. De là des pleurs continuels. Je soumettais ma chair rebelle à des jeûnes pendant des semaines entières. Les jours et les nuits étaient tout un le plus souvent, et je ne cessais de me frapper la poitrine que quand le Seigneur m’avait rendu à la tranquillité. Ma cellule elle-même me faisait peur, comme si elle eût été le témoin de mes pensées. Je m’irritais contre moi, et seul je m’enfonçais dans les déserts les plus affreux. Alors, Dieu m’en est témoin, après ces larmes abondantes il me semblait quelquefois être parmi les chœurs des anges. » Il fit ainsi pénitence pendant quatre ans, après quoi il revint à Bethléem, où il s'offrit à rester comme un animal domestique auprès de la crèche du Seigneur. Il relisait (135) les ouvrages de sa bibliothèque qu'il avait rassemblée avec le plus grand soin, ainsi que d'autres livres; et jeûnait jusqu'à la fin du jour. Il réunit autour de lui un grand nombre de disciples, et consacra quarante-cinq ans et six mois à traduire les Ecritures ; il demeura vierge jusqu'à la fin de sa vie. Bien que dans cette légende, il soit dit qu'il fut toujours vierge, il s'exprime cependant ainsi dans une lettre à Pammachius : « Je porte la virginité dans le ciel, non pas que je l’aie. » Enfin sa faiblesse l’abattit au point que couché en son lit, il était réduit, pour se lever, à se tenir par les mains à une corde attachée à une poutre, afin de suivre comme il le pouvait, les offices du monastère.

Une fois, vers le soir, alors que saint Jérôme était assis avec ses frères pour écouter une lecture de piété, tout à coup un lion entra tout boitant dans le monastère. A sa vue, les frères prirent tous la fuite; mais Jérôme s'avança au-devant de lui comme il l’eût fait pour un hôte. Le lion montra alors qu'il était blessé au pied, et Jérôme appela les frères en leur ordonnant de laver les pieds du lion et de chercher avec soin la place de la blessure. On découvrit que des ronces lui avaient déchiré la plante des pieds. Toute sorte de soins furent employés et le lion guéri, s'apprivoisa et resta avec la communauté comme un animal domestique. Mais Jérôme voyant que ce n'était pas tant pour guérir le pied du lion que pour l’utilité qu'on en pourrait retirer que le Seigneur le leur avait envoyé, de l’avis des frères, il lui confia le soin de mener lui-même au pâturage et d'y garder l’âne qu'on emploie à apporter du bois de la forêt. Ce qui se fit : (136) car l’âne ayant été confié au lion, celui-ci, comme un pasteur habile, servait de compagnon à l’âne qui allait tous les jours aux champs, et il était son défenseur le plus vigilant durant qu'il paissait çà et là. Néanmoins, afin de prendre lui-même sa nourriture et pour que l’âne pût se livrer à son travail d'habitude, tous les jours, à des heures fixes, il revenait avec lui à la maison. Or, il arriva que comme l’âne était à paître, le lion s'étant endormi d'un profond sommeil, passèrent des marchands avec des chameaux : ils virent l’âne seul et l’emmenèrent au plus vite. A son réveil, le lion ne trouvant plus son compagnon, se mit à courir çà et là en rugissant. Enfin, ne le rencontrant pas, il s'en vint tout triste aux portes du monastère, et n'eut pas la hardiesse d'entrer comme il le faisait d'habitude, tant il était honteux. Les frères le voyant rentrer plus tard que de coutume et sans l’âne, crurent que, poussé par la faim, il avait mangé cette bête; et ils ne voulurent pas lui donner sa pitance accoutumée, en lui disant : « Va manger ce qui t'est resté de l’ânon, va assouvir ta gloutonnerie. » Cependant comme ils n'étaient pas certains qu'il eût commis cette mauvaise action, ils allèrent aux pâtures voir si, par hasard, ils ne rencontreraient pas un indice prouvant que l’âne était mort, et comme ils ne trouvèrent rien, ils vinrent raconter le tout à saint Jérôme. D'après les avis du saint, on chargea le lion de remplir la fonction de l’âne ; on alla couper du bois et on le lui mit sur le dos. Le lion supporta cela avec patience: mais un jour qu'il avait rempli sa tâche, il alla dans la campagne et se mit à courir çà et là, dans le désir de (137) savoir ce qui était advenu de son compagnon, quand il vit venir au loin des marchands conduisant des chameaux chargés et un âne en avant. Car l’usage de ce pays est que quand on va au loin avec des chameaux, ceux-ci afin de pouvoir suivre une route plus directe, soient précédés par un âne qui les conduit au moyen d'une corde attachée à son cou. Le lion ayant reconnu l’âne, se précipita sur ces gens avec d'affreux rugissements et les mit tous en fuite. En proie à la colère, frappant avec force la terre de sa queue, il força les chameaux épouvantés d'aller par devant lui à l’étable du monastère, chargés comme ils l’étaient. Quand les frères virent cela, ils en informèrent saint Jérôme : « Lavez, très chers frères, dit le saint, lavez les pieds de nos hôtes ; donnez-leur à manger et attendez là-dessus la volonté du Seigneur. » Alors le lion se mit à courir plein de joie dans le monastère comme il le faisait jadis, se prosternant aux pieds de chaque frère. Il paraissait, en folâtrant avec sa queue, demander grâce pour une faute qu'il n'avait pas commise. Saint Jérôme, qui savait ce qui allait arriver, dit aux frères : « Allez, mes frères, préparer ce qu'il faut aux hôtes qui viennent ici. » Il parlait encore quand un messager annonça qu'à la porte se trouvaient des hôtes qui voulaient voir l’abbé. Celui-ci alla les trouver; les marchands se jetèrent de suite à ses pieds, lui demandant pardon pour la faute dont ils s'étaient rendus coupables. L'abbé les fit relever avec bonté et leur commanda de reprendre leur bien et de ne pas voler celui des autres. Ils se mirent alors à prier saint Jérôme d'accepter la moitié de leur huile et de les bénir. Après (138) bien des instances, ils contraignirent le saint à accepter leur offrande. Or, ils promirent de donner aux frères, chaque année, une pareille quantité, d'huile et d'imposer la même obligation à leurs héritiers (On prétend que toute cette histoire du lion est attribuée à la légende de saint Jérôme, par l’erreur d'un copiste qui aurait lu dans le Pré spirituel (ch. CVII) Hyéronime au lieu de Gérasime).

Autrefois chacun chantait à l’église ce qu'il voulait mais l’empereur Théodose, d'après Jean Beleth (ch. XIX), pria le pape Damase de confier à quelque savant le soin de régler l’office ecclésiastique. Le pape qui savait saint Jérôme instruit à fond dans les langues grecque et hébraïque et dans toutes les sciences, le chargea de cette rédaction. Alors saint Jérôme partagea le psautier entre les féries et assigna à chacune d'elles un nocturne particulier ; il institua de chanter à la fin de chaque psaume le Gloria Patri, selon que le rapporte Sigebert. Ensuite il mit dans un ordre convenable les épîtres et les évangiles qu'on devait chanter dans tout le cours de l’année, enfin tout ce qui concerne l’office, excepté le chant. De Bethléem il envoya son travail au souverain Pontife qui en fit de grands éloges ainsi que les cardinaux et qui en confirma l’usage pour la suite. Après quoi saint Jérôme se fit construire un tombeau à l’entrée de la grotte où Notre-Seigneur fut enseveli; et ce fut là, après avoir accompli quatre-vingt-dix ans et six mois, qu'il reçut la sépulture. On voit quel profond respect eut pour lui saint Augustin par les lettres qu'il lui adressa. Dans l’une, d'elles, il lui écrit en ces termes : « Au, seigneur très cher, et très honoré, et honorable ami Jérôme, Augustin, salut, etc. » Autre part, il écrit ainsi de lui : « Le prêtre Jérôme, très versé dans le grec, le latin et l’hébreu, vécut jusqu'à une extrême vieillesse dans les saints lieux, se livrant à l’étude des saintes lettres. La sublimité de ses discours brille de l’Orient à l’Occident comme la lumière du soleil. » Saint Prosper en ses chroniques en parle ainsi: « Jérôme, prêtre illustre dans le monde entier, habitait Bethléem, il rendit des services à l’église par son génie éminent et ses travaux. » Le saint parle aussi de soi-même en ces termes à Albigensis : « Il n'y a rien que je n'aie évité avec soin dès mon enfance comme l’esprit d'orgueil et la fierté de caractère qui attirent la colère de Dieu.». Il dit autre part : « J'ai de l’appréhension dans les choses qui paraissent certaines. » Plus loin: « Dans le monastère, nous exerçons l’hospitalité de tout tueur; tous ceux qui viennent à nous, excepté les hérétiques, nous les recevons avec un visage gai et nous leur lavons les pieds à leur arrivée. Isidore s'exprime ainsi dans son livre des Etymologies (Liv. VI.) : « Jérôme possédait trois langues; son interprétation est préférée à celle des autres, parce qu'il saisit mieux la valeur des termes, et que ses expressions sont claires et nettes ; en outre, parce qu'il est chrétien, il est plus sûr. » Sévère Sulpice, disciple de saint Martin, dans un de ses dialogues, parle, en ces termes, de saint Jérôme, son contemporain : « Saint Jérôme, indépendamment du mérite de sa foi et de ses vertus, était instruit dans le latin, le grec et même l’hébreu, à tel point que personne n'oserait se comparer à lui pour telle science que ce fût : ses combats et ses luttes contre les méchants étaient de tous les jours et de tous les instants : les hérétiques le haïrent parce que toujours il les attaqua; les clercs le haïrent parce qu'il reprit leurs crimes et leur manière de vivre : mais les gens de bien, sans exception, ne cessent de l’admirer et de l’aimer. En effet, tous ceux qui le pensent hérétique sont des extravagants. Toujours occupé à lire, toujours au milieu des livres, il ne se repose ni le jour, ni, la nuit. Toujours ou bien il lit ou bien il écrit. » Ainsi qu'on peut s'en assurer par ce qu'il en dit lui-même, il eut à souffrir d'un grand nombre de persécuteurs et de détracteurs. Mais il supporta de bon coeur ces persécutions. C'est ce qu'il écrit à Asella : « Je rends grâce à Dieu d'être digne de la haine du monde. On se moque de moi comme d'un malfaiteur; mais je sais que, pour arriver au ciel, il faut supporter la bonne comme la mauvaise renommée. Plût à Dieu que, pour le nom de mon Seigneur et pour la justice, la foule entière des infidèles me poursuivît. Que le monde ne peut-il s'élever encore avec plus de fureur pour m’avilir ! Je n'espère qu'une récompense: c'est de mériter les éloges de J.-C. et la réalisation de ses promesses. Il est doux, il est bon d'être éprouvé, quand on peut en attendre la rémunération de J. -C. dans le ciel. Les malédictions ont beau être grandes, si elles sont compensées par les encouragements de Dieu. » Il mourut vers l’an du Seigneur 398.

* Cette légende parait compilée sur une prétendue vie du saint par Eusèbe de Crémone et rapportée en tête des oeuvres de saint Jérôme.

La Légende dorée de Jacques de VORAGINE nouvellement traduite en français avec introduction, notices, notes et recherches sur les sources par l'Abbé J.-B. M. Roze, Chanoine Honoraire de la cathédrale d'Amiens , Édouard Rouveyre, éditeur, 76, Rue de Seine, 76, Paris MDCCCCII

SOURCE : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/voragine/tome03/147.htm


BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 7 November 2007



Saint Jerome (1)


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we turn our attention to St Jerome, a Church Father who centred his life on the Bible: he translated it into Latin, commented on it in his works, and above all, strove to live it in practice throughout his long earthly life, despite the well-known difficult, hot-tempered character with which nature had endowed him.

Jerome was born into a Christian family in about 347 A.D. in Stridon. He was given a good education and was even sent to Rome to fine-tune his studies. As a young man he was attracted by the worldly life (cf. Ep 22, 7), but his desire for and interest in the Christian religion prevailed. 


He received Baptism in about 366 and opted for the ascetic life. He went to Aquileia and joined a group of fervent Christians that had formed around Bishop Valerian and which he described as almost "a choir of blesseds" (Chron. ad ann. 374). He then left for the East and lived as a hermit in the Desert of Chalcis, south of Aleppo (Ep 14, 10), devoting himself assiduously to study. He perfected his knowledge of Greek, began learning Hebrew (cf. Ep 125, 12), and transcribed codices and Patristic writings (cf. Ep 5, 2). Meditation, solitude and contact with the Word of God helped his Christian sensibility to mature. He bitterly regretted the indiscretions of his youth (cf. Ep. 22, 7) and was keenly aware of the contrast between the pagan mentality and the Christian life: a contrast made famous by the dramatic and lively "vision" - of which he has left us an account - in which it seemed to him that he was being scourged before God because he was "Ciceronian rather than Christian" (cf. Ep. 22, 30).



In 382 he moved to Rome: here, acquainted with his fame as an ascetic and his ability as a scholar, Pope Damasus engaged him as secretary and counsellor; the Pope encouraged him, for pastoral and cultural reasons, to embark on a new Latin translation of the Biblical texts. Several members of the Roman aristocracy, especially noblewomen such as Paula, Marcella, Asella, Lea and others, desirous of committing themselves to the way of Christian perfection and of deepening their knowledge of the Word of God, chose him as their spiritual guide and teacher in the methodical approach to the sacred texts. These noblewomen also learned Greek and Hebrew.

After the death of Pope Damasus, Jerome left Rome in 385 and went on pilgrimage, first to the Holy Land, a silent witness of Christ's earthly life, and then to Egypt, the favourite country of numerous monks (cf. Contra Rufinum, 3, 22; Ep. 108, 6-14). In 386 he stopped in Bethlehem, where male and female monasteries were built through the generosity of the noblewoman, Paula, as well as a hospice for pilgrims bound for the Holy Land, "remembering Mary and Joseph who had found no room there" (Ep. 108, 14). He stayed in Bethlehem until he died, continuing to do a prodigious amount of work: he commented on the Word of God; he defended the faith, vigorously opposing various heresies; he urged the monks on to perfection; he taught classical and Christian culture to young students; he welcomed with a pastor's heart pilgrims who were visiting the Holy Land. He died in his cell close to the Grotto of the Nativity on 30 September 419-420.

Jerome's literary studies and vast erudition enabled him to revise and translate many biblical texts: an invaluable undertaking for the Latin Church and for Western culture. On the basis of the original Greek and Hebrew texts, and thanks to the comparison with previous versions, he revised the four Gospels in Latin, then the Psalter and a large part of the Old Testament. Taking into account the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Septuagint, the classical Greek version of the Old Testament that dates back to pre-Christian times, as well as the earlier Latin versions, Jerome was able, with the assistance later of other collaborators, to produce a better translation: this constitutes the so-called "Vulgate", the "official" text of the Latin Church which was recognized as such by the Council of Trent and which, after the recent revision, continues to be the "official" Latin text of the Church. It is interesting to point out the criteria which the great biblicist abided by in his work as a translator. He himself reveals them when he says that he respects even the order of the words of the Sacred Scriptures, for in them, he says, "the order of the words is also a mystery" (Ep. 57, 5), that is, a revelation. Furthermore, he reaffirms the need to refer to the original texts: "Should an argument on the New Testament arise between Latins because of interpretations of the manuscripts that fail to agree, let us turn to the original, that is, to the Greek text in which the New Testament was written. "Likewise, with regard to the Old Testament, if there are divergences between the Greek and Latin texts we should have recourse to the original Hebrew text; thus, we shall be able to find in the streams all that flows from the source" (Ep. 106, 2). Jerome also commented on many biblical texts. For him the commentaries had to offer multiple opinions "so that the shrewd reader, after reading the different explanations and hearing many opinions - to be accepted or rejected - may judge which is the most reliable, and, like an expert moneychanger, may reject the false coin" (Contra Rufinum 1, 16).

Jerome refuted with energy and liveliness the heretics who contested the tradition and faith of the Church. He also demonstrated the importance and validity of Christian literature, which had by then become a real culture that deserved to be compared with classical literature: he did so by composing his De Viris Illustribus, a work in which Jerome presents the biographies of more than a hundred Christian authors. Further, he wrote biographies of monks, comparing among other things their spiritual itineraries as well as monastic ideal. In addition, he translated various works by Greek authors. Lastly, in the important Epistulae, a masterpiece of Latin literature, Jerome emerges with the profile of a man of culture, an ascetic and a guide of souls.

What can we learn from St Jerome? It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture. This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one. We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God. Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church. The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ's Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us. We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life.

I thus conclude with a word St Jerome once addressed to St Paulinus of Nola. In it the great exegete expressed this very reality, that is, in the Word of God we receive eternity, eternal life. St Jerome said: "Seek to learn on earth those truths which will remain ever valid in Heaven" (Ep. 53, 10).


To special groups

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and the United States. My special greeting goes to the members of the pilgrimage group from the Diocese of Rockville Center, led by their Bishop. I also thank the orchestral and choral groups for their uplifting music. Upon all of you I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lastly, I turn my thoughts to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Dear young people, plan your future in faithfulness to the Gospel, letting yourselves be guided by Jesus' teaching. Dear sick people, offer up your suffering to the Lord, so that also thanks to your participation in his suffering he may implement in the world his saving action. And you, dear newly-weds, guided by a living faith, seek to form family communities inspired by an intense Gospel zeal.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Saint Jerome (2)


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we continue the presentation of the figure of St Jerome. As we said last Wednesday, he dedicated his life to studying the Bible, so much so that he was recognized by my Predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, as "an outstanding doctor in the interpretation of Sacred Scripture". Jerome emphasized the joy and importance of being familiar with biblical texts: "Does one not seem to dwell, already here on earth, in the Kingdom of Heaven when one lives with these texts, when one meditates on them, when one does not know or seek anything else?" (Ep. 53, 10). In reality, to dialogue with God, with his Word, is in a certain sense a presence of Heaven, a presence of God. To draw near to the biblical texts, above all the New Testament, is essential for the believer, because "ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". This is his famous phrase, cited also by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Dei Verbum (n. 25).

Truly "in love" with the Word of God, he asked himself: "How could one live without the knowledge of Scripture, through which one learns to know Christ himself, who is the life of believers?" (Ep. 30, 7). The Bible, an instrument "by which God speaks every day to the faithful" (Ep. 133, 13), thus becomes a stimulus and source of Christian life for all situations and for each person. To read Scripture is to converse with God: "If you pray", he writes to a young Roman noblewoman, "you speak with the Spouse; if you read, it is he who speaks to you" (Ep. 22, 25). The study of and meditation on Scripture renders man wise and serene (cf. In Eph., Prol.). Certainly, to penetrate the Word of God ever more profoundly, a constant and progressive application is needed. Hence, Jerome recommends to the priest Nepotian: "Read the divine Scriptures frequently; rather, may your hands never set the Holy Book down. Learn here what you must teach" (Ep. 52, 7). To the Roman matron Leta he gave this counsel for the Christian education of her daughter: "Ensure that each day she studies some Scripture passage.... After prayer, reading should follow, and after reading, prayer.... Instead of jewels and silk clothing, may she love the divine Books" (Ep. 107, 9, 12). Through meditation on and knowledge of the Scriptures, one "maintains the equilibrium of the soul" (Ad Eph., Prol.). Only a profound spirit of prayer and the Holy Spirit's help can introduce us to understanding the Bible: "In the interpretation of Sacred Scripture we always need the help of the Holy Spirit" (In Mich. 1, 1, 10, 15).

A passionate love for Scripture therefore pervaded Jerome's whole life, a love that he always sought to deepen in the faithful, too. He recommends to one of his spiritual daughters: "Love Sacred Scripture and wisdom will love you; love it tenderly, and it will protect you; honour it and you will receive its caresses. May it be for you as your necklaces and your earrings" (Ep. 130, 20). And again: "Love the science of Scripture, and you will not love the vices of the flesh" (Ep. 125, 11).

For Jerome, a fundamental criterion of the method for interpreting the Scriptures was harmony with the Church's Magisterium. We should never read Scripture alone because we meet too many closed doors and could easily slip into error. The Bible has been written by the People of God and for the People of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God do we truly enter into the "we", into the nucleus of the truth that God himself wants to tell us. For him, an authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmonious accord with the faith of the Catholic Church. It is not a question of an exegesis imposed on this Book from without; the Book is really the voice of the pilgrim People of God and only in the faith of this People are we "correctly attuned" to understand Sacred Scripture. Therefore, Jerome admonishes: "Remain firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that you have been taught, so that you can preach according to right doctrine and refute those who contradict it" (Ep. 52, 7). In particular, given that Jesus Christ founded his Church on Peter, every Christian, he concludes, must be in communion "with St Peter's See. I know that on this rock the Church is built" (Ep. 15, 2). Consequently, without equivocation, he declared: "I am with whoever is united to the teaching of St Peter" (Ep. 16).

Obviously, Jerome does not neglect the ethical aspect. Indeed, he often recalls the duty to harmonize one's life with the divine Word, and only by living it does one also find the capacity to understand it. This consistency is indispensable for every Christian, and particularly for the preacher, so that his actions may never contradict his discourses nor be an embarrassment to him. Thus, he exhorts the priest Nepotian: "May your actions never be unworthy of your words, may it not happen that, when you preach in church, someone might say to himself: "Why does he therefore not act like this?'. How could a teacher, on a full stomach, discuss fasting; even a thief can blame avarice; but in the priest of Christ the mind and words must harmonize" (Ep. 52, 7). In another Epistle Jerome repeats: "Even if we possess a splendid doctrine, the person who feels condemned by his own conscience remains disgraced" (Ep. 127, 4). Also on the theme of consistency he observes: the Gospel must translate into truly charitable behaviour, because in each human being the Person of Christ himself is present. For example, addressing the presbyter Paulinus (who then became Bishop of Nola and a Saint), Jerome counsels: "The true temple of Christ is the soul of the faithful: adorn it and beautify this shrine, place your offerings in it and receive Christ. What is the use of decorating the walls with precious stones if Christ dies of hunger in the person of the poor?" (Ep. 58, 7). Jerome concretizes the need "to clothe Christ in the poor, to visit him in the suffering, to nourish him in the hungry, to house him in the homeless" (Ep. 130, 14). The love of Christ, nourished with study and meditation, makes us rise above every difficulty: "Let us also love Jesus Christ, always seeking union with him: then even what is difficult will seem easy to us" (Ep. 22, 40).

Prosper of Aquitaine, who defined Jerome as a "model of conduct and teacher of the human race" (Carmen de ingratis, 57), also left us a rich and varied teaching on Christian asceticism. He reminds us that a courageous commitment towards perfection requires constant vigilance, frequent mortifications, even if with moderation and prudence, and assiduous intellectual and manual labour to avoid idleness (cf. Epp. 125, 11; 130, 15), and above all obedience to God: "Nothing... pleases God as much as obedience..., which is the most excellent and sole virtue" (Hom. de Oboedientia: CCL 78, 552). The practice of pilgrimage can also be part of the ascetical journey. In particular, Jerome promoted pilgrimages to the Holy Land, where pilgrims were welcomed and housed in the lodgings that were built next to the monastery of Bethlehem, thanks to the generosity of the noblewoman Paula, a spiritual daughter of Jerome (cf. Ep. 108, 14).

Lastly, one cannot remain silent about the importance that Jerome gave to the matter of Christian pedagogy (cf. Epp. 107; 128). He proposed to form "one soul that must become the temple of the Lord" (Ep. 107, 4), a "very precious gem" in the eyes of God (Ep. 107, 13). With profound intuition he advises to preserve oneself from evil and from the occasions of sin, and to exclude equivocal or dissipating friendships (cf. Ep. 107, 4, 8-9; also Ep. 128, 3-4). Above all, he exhorts parents to create a serene and joyful environment around their children, to stimulate them to study and work also through praise and emulation (cf. Epp. 107, 4; 128, 1), encouraging them to overcome difficulties, foster good habits and avoid picking up bad habits, so that, and here he cites a phrase of Publius Siro which he heard at school: "it will be difficult for you to correct those things to which you are quietly habituating yourself" (Ep. 107, 8). Parents are the principal educators of their children, the first teachers of life. With great clarity Jerome, addressing a young girl's mother and then mentioning her father, admonishes, almost expressing a fundamental duty of every human creature who comes into existence: "May she find in you her teacher, and may she look to you with the inexperienced wonder of childhood. Neither in you, nor in her father should she ever see behaviour that could lead to sin, as it could be copied. Remember that... you can educate her more by example than with words" (Ep. 107, 9). Among Jerome's principal intuitions as a pedagogue, one must emphasize the importance he attributed to a healthy and integral education beginning from early childhood, the particular responsibility belonging to parents, the urgency of a serious moral and religious formation and the duty to study for a more complete human formation. Moreover, an aspect rather disregarded in ancient times but held vital by our author is the promotion of the woman, to whom he recognizes the right to a complete formation: human, scholastic, religious, professional. We see precisely today how the education of the personality in its totality, the education to responsibility before God and man, is the true condition of all progress, all peace, all reconciliation and the exclusion of violence. Education before God and man: it is Sacred Scripture that offers us the guide for education and thus of true humanism.

We cannot conclude these quick notes on the great Father of the Church without mentioning his effective contribution to safeguarding the positive and valid elements of the ancient Hebrew, Greek and Roman cultures for nascent Christian civilization. Jerome recognized and assimilated the artistic values of the richness of the sentiments and the harmony of the images present in the classics, which educate the heart and fantasy to noble sentiments. Above all, he put at the centre of his life and activity the Word of God, which indicates the path of life to man and reveals the secrets of holiness to him. We cannot fail to be deeply grateful for all of this, even in our day.

To special groups

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Denmark, Japan, Canada and the United States of America. I greet especially the Sisters of St Anne of Tiruchirapalli, who are preparing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of their foundation. Upon all of you I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


St. Jerome

Born at Stridon, a town on the confines of Dalmatia and Pannonia, about the year 340-2; died at Bethlehem, 30 September, 420.

He went to Rome, probably about 360, where he was baptized, and became interested in ecclesiastical matters. From Rome he went to Trier, famous for its schools, and there began his theological studies. Later he went to Aquileia, and towards 373 he set out on a journey to the East. He settled first in Antioch, where he heard Apollinaris of Laodicea, one of the first exegetes of that time and not yet separated from the Church. From 374-9 Jerome led an ascetical life in the desert of Chalcis, south-west of Antioch. Ordained priest at Antioch, he went to Constantinople (380-81), where a friendship sprang up between him and St. Gregory of Nazianzus. From 382 to August 385 he made another sojourn in Rome, not far from Pope Damasus. When the latter died (11 December, 384) his position became a very difficult one. His harsh criticisms had made him bitter enemies, who tried to ruin him. After a few months he was compelled to leave Rome. By way of Antioch and Alexandria he reached Bethlehem, in 386. He settled there in a monastery near a convent founded by two Roman ladies, Paula and Eustochium, who followed him to Palestine. Henceforth he led a life of asceticism and study; but even then he was troubled by controversies which will be mentioned later, one with Rufinus and the other with the Pelagians.

Chronology

The literary activity of St. Jerome, although very prolific, may be summed up under a few principal heads: works on the Bible; theological controversies; historical works; various letters; translations. But perhaps the chronology of his more important writings will enable us to follow more easily the development of his studies.
A first period extends to his sojourn in Rome (382), a period of preparation. From this period we have the translation of the homilies of Origen on Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Isaias (379-81), and about the same time the translation of the Chronicle of Eusebius; then the "Vita S. Pauli, prima eremitae" (374-379).

A second period extends from his sojourn in Rome to the beginning of the translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew (382-390). During this period the exegetical vocation of St. Jerome asserted itself under the influence of Pope Damasus, and took definite shape when the opposition of the ecclesiastics of Rome compelled the caustic Dalmatian to renounce ecclesiastical advancement and retire to Bethlehem. In 384 we have the correction of the Latin version of the Four Gospels; in 385, the Epistles of St. Paul; in 384, a first revision of the Latin Psalms according to the accepted text of the Septuagint (Roman Psalter); in 384, the revision of the Latin version of the Book of Job, after the accepted version of the Septuagint; between 386 and 391 a second revision of the Latin Psalter, this time according to the text of the "Hexapla" of Origen (Gallican Psalter, embodied in the Vulgate). It is doubtful whether he revised the entire version of the Old Testament according to the Greek of the Septuagint. In 382-383 "Altercatio Luciferiani et Orthodoxi" and "De perpetua Virginitate B. Mariae; adversus Helvidium". In 387-388, commentaries on the Epistles to Philemon, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to Titus; and in 389-390, on Ecclesiastes.

Between 390 and 405, St. Jerome gave all his attention to the translation of the Old Testament according to the Hebrew, but this work alternated with many others. Between 390-394 he translated the Books of Samuel and of Kings, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Esdras, and Paralipomena. In 390 he translated the treatise "De Spiritu Sancto" of Didymus of Alexandria; in 389-90, he drew up his "Quaestiones hebraicae in Genesim" and "De interpretatione nominum hebraicorum." In 391-92 he wrote the "Vita S. Hilarionis", the "Vita Malchi, monachi captivi", and commentaries on Nahum, Micheas, Sophonias, Aggeus, Habacuc. In 392-93, "De viris illustribus", and "Adversus Jovinianum"; in 395, commentaries on Jonas and Abdias; in 398, revision of the remainder of the Latin version of the New Testament, and about that time commentaries on chapters 13-23 of Isaias; in 398, an unfinished work "Contra Joannem Hierosolymitanum"; in 401, "Apologeticum adversus Rufinum"; between 403-406, "Contra Vigilantium"; finally from 398 to 405, completion of the version of the Old Testament according to the Hebrew.

In the last period of his life, from 405 to 420, St. Jerome took up the series of his commentaries interrupted for seven years. In 406, he commented on Osee, Joel, Amos, Zacharias, Malachias; in 408, on Daniel; from 408 to 410, on the remainder of Isaias; from 410 to 415, on Ezechiel; from 415-420, on Jeremias. From 401 to 410 date what is left of his sermons; treatises on St. Mark, homilies on the Psalms, on various subjects, and on the Gospels; in 415, "Dialogi contra Pelagianos".




Rogier van der Weyden, Saint Jérôme et le lion, vers 1450

Characteristics of St. Jerome's work

St. Jerome owes his place in the history of exegetical studies chiefly to his revisions and translations of the Bible. Until about 391-2, he considered the Septuagint translation as inspired. But the progress of his Hebraistic studies and his intercourse with the rabbis made him give up that idea, and he recognized as inspired the original text only. It was about this period that he undertook the translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew. But he went too far in his reaction against the ideas of his time, and is open to reproach for not having sufficiently appreciated the Septuagint. This latter version was made from a much older, and at times much purer, Hebrew text than the one in use at the end of the fourth century. Hence the necessity of taking the Septuagint into consideration in any attempt to restore the text of the Old Testament. With this exception we must admit the excellence of the translation made by St. Jerome.

His commentaries represent a vast amount of work but of very unequal value. Very often he worked exceedingly rapidly; besides, he considered a commentary a work of compilation, and his chief care was to accumulate the interpretations of his predecessors, rather than to pass judgment on them. The "Quaestiones hebraicae in Genesim" is one of his best works. It is a philological inquiry concerning the original text. It is to be regretted that he was unable to continue, as had been his intention, a style of work entirely new at the time. Although he often asserted his desire to avoid excessive allegory, his efforts in that respect were far from successful, and in later years he was ashamed of some of his earlier allegorical explanations. He himself says that he had recourse to the allegorical meaning only when unable to discover the literal meaning. His treatise, "De Interpretatione nominum hebraicorum", is but a collection of mystical and symbolical meanings.

Excepting the "Commentarius in ep. ad Galatas", which is one of his best, his explanations of the New Testament have no great value. Among his commentaries on the Old Testament must be mentioned those on Amos, Isaias, and Jeremias. There are some that are frankly bad, for instance those on Zacharias, Osee, and Joel.

To sum up, the Biblical knowledge of St. Jerome makes him rank first among ancient exegetes. In the first place, he was very careful as to the sources of his information. He required of the exegete a very extensive knowledge of sacred and profane history, and also of the linguistics and geography of Palestine. He never either categorically acknowledged or rejected the deuterocanonical books as part of the Canon of Scripture, and he repeatedly made use of them. On the inspiration, the existence of a spiritual meaning, and the freedom of the Bible from error, he holds the traditional doctrine. Possibly he has insisted more than others on the share which belongs to the sacred writer in his collaboration in the inspired work. His criticism is not without originality. The controversy with the Jews and with the Pagans had long since called the attention of the Christians to certain difficulties in the Bible. St. Jerome answers in various ways. Not to mention his answers to this or that difficulty, he appeals above all to the principle, that the original text of the Scriptures is the only one inspired and free from error. Therefore one must determine if the text, in which the difficulties arise, has not been altered by the copyist. Moreover, when the writers of the New Testament quoted the Old Testament, they did so not according to the letter but according to the spirit. There are many subtleties and even contradictions in the explanations Jerome offers, but we must bear in mind his evident sincerity. He does not try to cloak over his ignorance; he admits that there are many difficulties in the Bible; at times he seems quite embarrassed. Finally, he proclaims a principle, which, if recognized as legitimate, might serve to adjust the insufficiencies of his criticism. He asserts that in the Bible there is no material error due to the ignorance or the heedlessness of the sacred writer, but he adds: "It is usual for the sacred historian to conform himself to the generally accepted opinion of the masses in his time" (P.L., XXVI, 98; XXIV, 855).

Among the historical works of St. Jerome must be noted the translation and the continuation of the "Chronicon Eusebii Caesariensis", as the continuation written by him, which extends from 325 to 378, served as a model for the annals of the chroniclers of the Middle Ages; hence the defects in such works: dryness, superabundance of data of every description, lack of proportion and of historical sense. The "Vita S. Pauli Eremitae" is not a very reliable document. The "Vita Malchi, monachi" is a eulogy of chastity woven through a number of legendary episodes. As to the "Vita S. Hilarionis", it has suffered from contact with the preceding ones. It has been asserted that the journeys of St. Hilarion are a plagiarism of some old tales of travel. But these objections are altogether misplaced, as it is really a reliable work. The treatise "De Viris illustribus" is a very excellent literary history. It was written as an apologetic work to prove that the Church had produced learned men. For the first three centuries Jerome depends to a great extent on Eusebius, whose statements he borrows, often distorting them, owing to the rapidity with which he worked. His accounts of the authors of the fourth century however are of great value.

The oratorical consist of about one hundred homilies or short treatises, and in these the Solitary of Bethlehem appears in a new light. He is a monk addressing monks, not without making very obvious allusions to contemporary events. The orator is lengthy and apologizes for it. He displays a wonderful knowledge of the versions and contents of the Bible. His allegory is excessive at times, and his teaching on grace is Semipelagian. A censorious spirit against authority, sympathy for the poor which reaches the point of hostility against the rich, lack of good taste, inferiority of style, and misquotation, such are the most glaring defects of these sermons. Evidently they are notes taken down by his hearers, and it is a question whether they were reviewed by the preacher.

The correspondence of St. Jerome is one of the best known parts of his literary output. It comprises about one hundred and twenty letters from him, and several from his correspondents. Many of these letters were written with a view to publication, and some of them the author even edited himself; hence they show evidence of great care and skill in their composition, and in them St. Jerome reveals himself a master of style. These letters, which had already met with great success with his contemporaries, have been, with the "Confessions" of St. Augustine, one of the works most appreciated by the humanists of the Renaissance. Aside from their literary interest they have great historical value. Relating to a period covering half a century they touch upon most varied subjects; hence their division into letters dealing with theology, polemics, criticism, conduct, and biography. In spite of their turgid diction they are full of the man's personality. It is in this correspondence that the temperament of St. Jerome is most clearly seen: his waywardness, his love of extremes, his exceeding sensitiveness; how he was in turn exquisitely dainty and bitterly satirical, unsparingly outspoken concerning others and equally frank about himself.

The theological writings of St. Jerome are mainly controversial works, one might almost say composed for the occasion. He missed being a theologian, by not applying himself in a consecutive and personal manner to doctrinal questions. In his controversies he was simply the interpreter of the accepted ecclesiastical doctrine. Compared with St. Augustine his inferiority in breadth and originality of view is most evident.

His "Dialogue" against the Luciferians deals with a schismatic sect whose founder was Lucifer, Bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia. The Luciferians refused to approve of the measure of clemency by which the Church, since the Council of Alexandria, in 362, had allowed bishops, who had adhered to Arianism, to continue to discharge their duties on condition of professing the Nicene Creed. This rigorist sect had adherents almost everywhere, and even in Rome it was very troublesome. Against it Jerome wrote his "Dialogue", scathing in sarcasm, but not always accurate in doctrine, particularly as to the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The book "Adversus Helvidium" belongs to about the same period. Helvidius held the two following tenets:
Earnest entreaty decided Jerome to answer. In doing so he discusses the various texts of the Gospel which, it was claimed, contained the objections to the perpetual virginity of Mary. If he did not find positive answers on all points, his work, nevertheless, holds a very creditable place in the history of Catholic exegesis upon these questions.

The relative dignity of virginity and marriage, discussed in the book against Helvidius, was taken up again in the book "Adversus Jovinianum" written about ten years later. Jerome recognizes the legitimacy of marriage, but he uses concerning it certain disparaging expressions which were criticized by contemporaries and for which he has given no satisfactory explanation. Jovinian was more dangerous than Helvidius. Although he did not exactly teach salvation by faith alone, and the uselessness of good works, he made far too easy the road to salvation and slighted a life of asceticism. Every one of these points St. Jerome took up.

The "Apologeticum adversus Rufinum" dealt with the Origenistic controversies. St. Jerome was involved in one of the most violent episodes of that struggle, which agitated the Church from Origen's lifetime until the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). The question at issue was to determine if certain doctrines professed by Origen and others taught by certain pagan followers of Origen could be accepted. In the present case the doctrinal difficulties were embittered by personalities between St. Jerome and his former friend, Rufinus. To understand St. Jerome's position we must remember that the works of Origen were by far the most complete exegetical collection then in existence, and the one most accessible to students. Hence a very natural tendency to make use of them, and it is evident that St. Jerome did so, as well as many others. But we must carefully distinguish between writers who made use of Origen and those who adhered to his doctrines. This distinction is particularly necessary with St. Jerome, whose method of work was very rapid, and consisted in transcribing the interpretations of former exegetes without passing criticism on them. Nevertheless, it is certain that St. Jerome greatly praised and made use of Origen, that he even transcribed some erroneous passages without due reservation. But it is also evident that he never adhered thinkingly and systematically to the Origenistic doctrines.

Under these circumstances it came about that when Rufinus, who was a genuine Origenist, called on him to justify his use of Origen, the explanations he gave were not free from embarrassment. At this distance of time it would require a very subtle and detailed study of the question to decide the real basis of the quarrel. However that may be, Jerome may be accused of imprudence of language and blamed for a too hasty method of work. With a temperament such as his, and confident of his undoubted orthodoxy in the matter of Origenism, he must naturally have been tempted to justify anything. This brought about a most bitter controversy with his wily adversary, Rufinus. But on the whole Jerome's position is by far the stronger of the two, even in the eyes of his contemporaries. It is generally conceded that in this controversy Rufinus was to blame. It was he who brought about the conflict in which he proved himself to be narrow-minded, perplexed, ambitious, even timorous. St. Jerome, whose attitude is not always above reproach, is far superior to him.

Vigilantius, the Gascon priest against whom Jerome wrote a treatise, quarrelled with ecclesiastical usages rather than matters of doctrine. What he principally rejected was the monastic life and the veneration of saints and of relics.

In short, Helvidius, Jovinian, and Vigilantius were the mouthpieces of a reaction against asceticism which had developed so largely in the fourth century. Perhaps the influence of that same reaction is to be seen in the doctrine of the monk Pelagius, who gave his name to the principal heresy on grace: Pelagianism. On this subject Jerome wrote his "Dialogi contra Pelagianos". Accurate as to the doctrine of original sin, the author is much less so when he determines the part of God and of man in the act of justification. In the main his ideas are Semipelagian: man merits first grace: a formula which endangers the absolute freedom of the gift of grace.

The book "De situ et nominibus locorum hebraicorum" is a translation of the "Onomasticon" of Eusebius, to which the translator has joined additions and corrections. The translations of the "Homilies" of Origen vary in character according to the time in which they were written. As time went on, Jerome became more expert in the art of translating, and he outgrew the tendency to palliate, as he came across them, certain errors of Origen. We must make special mention of the translation of the homilies "In Canticum Canticorum", the Greek original of which has been lost.

St. Jerome's complete works can be found in P.L., XXII-XXX.


Saltet, Louis. "St. Jerome." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 29 Sept. 2015<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08341a.htm>.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08341a.htm


Bartolomeo Cavarozzi . Jérôme visité par des anges, XVIIe siècle


        
September 30

St. Jerom, Priest and Doctor of the Church

From his epistles and other works, and from other fathers and ancient historians. See Tillemont, t. 12. Ceillier, t. 10, and his life compiled in French by Dom. Martianay, in 4to. in 1706, dedicated to the abbess of Lauzun; and that in Latin by Villarsi, in the Verona edition of his works. Consult also Orsi, l. 18, n. 51, t. 8, p. 113, l. 20, n. 31, t. 9, p. 77. Dolci de rebus gestis S. Hieronymi, 4to. Anconæ, 1750. Stilting, t. 8, Sept. p. 418, 699.

A.D. 420.


ST. JEROM, who is allowed to have been, in many respects, the most learned of all the Latin fathers, was born, not at Strigonium, now called Gran, situated upon the Danube in Lower Hungary, but at Stridonium, now Sdrigni, a small town upon the confines of Pannonia, Dalmatia, and Italy, near Aquileia. 
1 He had a brother much younger than himself, whose name was Paulinian. His father, called Eusebius, was descended from a good family, and had a competent estate; but, being persuaded that a good education is the most precious inheritance that a parent can leave to his children, took great care to have his son instructed in piety, and in the first principles of literature at home, 2 and afterwards sent him to Rome. St. Jerom had there, for tutor, the famous pagan grammarian Donatus, (well known for his commentaries on Virgil and Terence,) also Victorinus the rhetorician, who by a decree of the senate was honoured with a statue in Trajan’s square. 3 In this city he became master of the Latin and Greek tongues, read the best writers in both languages with great application, and made such progress in oratory, that he for some time pleaded at the bar: but being left without a guide, under the discipline of a heathen master, in a school where an exterior regard to decency in morals was all that was aimed at, he forgot the sentiments of true piety, which had been instilled into him in his infancy, neglected sufficiently to restrain his passions, and was full only of worldly views. His misfortune confirms the truth of that important maxim, that though the advantages of emulation and mutual communication in studies be exceeding great with regard to learning, these are never to be purchased with danger to virtue; nor is a youth to be trusted in public schools without the utmost precaution: both that he be under the watchful eye and prudent direction of a person who is sincerely pious and experienced; and that he be linked in society with virtuous companions, whose gravity, inclinations, discourse, and whole deportment and spirit, may be to him a constant spur to all virtue, and a support and fence against the torrent of the world, or of the dangerous example of others. Jerom went out of this school free indeed from gross vices, but unhappily a stranger to a Christian spirit, and enslaved to vanity and the more refined passions, as he afterwards confessed and bitterly lamented.

  Being arrived at man’s estate, and very desirous of improving his studies, he resolved upon travelling, in order to further this design. Few means contribute more to give a knowledge of men and the world, and to enlarge a person’s insight in all arts and sciences, and in every branch of useful knowledge, than travelling in polite and learned countries. But for this a maturity of age and judgment is requisite: a foundation must have been first laid of a competent stock of knowledge, at least of the principles of all the arts in which a person seeks to improve himself; otherwise things will present to him only their surfaces or shells, he will see and hear without understanding, and his travels will at least be no more than an idle gratification of vain curiosity. The conversation of the wisest and best persons in every place is to be cultivated; the snares of the world, and all bad company must be watchfully guarded against: and whatever can be any improvement in valuable knowledge must be diligently treasured up; in which even those who are best qualified for making proper observations, will still find much pleasure and great advantage by a guide who is ready and able to point out whatever deserves notice, and to improve, and be himself improved by mutual observations. Virtue being the greatest and most noble of all improvements of the human mind, challenges the first attention of the traveller, who will be able every where to meet with lessons of it in the example, maxims, and instructions of the good, and to learn watchfulness even from the snares of vice. Heroic practices and sentiments of piety, how much soever they are concealed, may be learned almost everywhere, if conversation with the most experienced persons in virtue be sought, and the spirit of God inspire an earnest desire of making such discoveries and improvements. Above all things, in travelling, great fervour and assiduity in all religious exercises is necessary, and frequent meditation must cherish and maintain pious sentiments, and serious reflection digest all the improvements of the mind. Personal duties and circumstances allow few the opportunity of travelling; and either by too much time, a wrong season of life, or a neglect of the necessary rules and conditions, it generally becomes a vicious rambling, and a school of sloth, trifling, and often of all the passions. Most travel so as to unhinge the whole frame of their minds, by living in constant dissipation, so as to verify the motto, that few become by it more holy. As for modish modern travellers, whose chief study is the gratification of their passions, they import home little else but the slanders and impiety of foreign cities, and the vices of the most abandoned rakes, into whose company they most easily fall, in the countries through which they passed. Many ancient philosophers travelled for the sake of acquiring useful science: fervent servants of God have sometimes left their cells (though redoubling their ardour in the practice of penance and recollection) to visit holy men for their own edification and instruction.

  St. Jerom in his first journeys was conducted by the divine mercy into the paths of virtue and salvation. A vehement thirst after learning put him upon making a tour through Gaul, where the Romans had erected several famous schools, especially at Marseilles, Toulouse, Bourdeaux, Autun, Lyons, and Triers. This latter was esteemed an imperial city, being in that age frequently honoured with the presence of the emperors, when Rome, by the attachment of many powerful senators to idolatry, and their regret for the loss of their ancient liberty and privileges, was not so agreeable a residence to its princes. The Emperor Gratian, a learned man, and a great lover of learning, who appointed, out of his own revenue, fixed salaries for the public masters of rhetoric, and of the Greek and Latin languages in all great cities, 4 distinguished the schools of Gaul with special favours, and above the rest, those of Triers, to whose professors he granted greater salaries than to those of other cities, and whither he drew Ausonius from Bourdeaux. By prudent regulations he forbade the students of this city to frequent public diversions, or shows in the theatre, or to assist at great banquets or entertainments, and gave other strict orders for the regulation of their manners. Ausonius extols the eloquence and learning of the illustrious Harmonius and Ursulus, professors of eloquence at Triers. 5 It had been St. Jerom’s greatest pleasure at Rome to collect a good library, and to read all the best authors: in this, such was his passion, that it made him sometimes forget to eat or drink. Cicero and Plautus were his chief delight. He purchased a great many books, copied several, and procured many to be transcribed by his friends. 6

  He arrived at Triers with his friend Bonosus not long before the year 370, and it was in that city that the sentiments of piety which he imbibed in his infancy, were awakened, and his heart was entirely converted to God; so that renouncing the vanity of his former pursuits, and the irregularities of his life, he took a resolution to devote himself wholly to the divine service, in a state of perpetual continence. 7 From this time his ardour for virtue far surpassed that with which he had before applied himself to profane sciences, and he converted the course of his studies into a new channel. Being still intent on enriching his library, he copied at Triers, St. Hilary’s book On Synods, and his Commentaries on the Psalms. 8 Having collected whatever he could meet with in Gaul to augment his literary treasure, he repaired to Aquileia, where at that time flourished many eminent and learned men. St. Valerian, the bishop, had entirely cleared that church of Arianism, with which it had been infected under his predecessor, and had drawn thither so many virtuous and learned men, that the clergy of Aquileia were famous over all the western church. With many of these St. Jerom contracted so great an intimacy, that their names appear often in his writings. Among these, St. Chromatius, who was then priest, succeeded St. Valerian in the episcopal dignity, whose death happened in 387, on the 26th of November, as Fontanini demonstrates. 9 To St. Chromatius St. Jerom afterwards dedicated several of his works. This great bishop died on the 2nd of December, about the year 406. 10 Among the other eminent clergymen of Aquileia at that time are reckoned St. Chromatius’s two brothers, Jovinus, the archdeacon, and Eusebius, deacon; Heliodorus (who was ordained bishop of Antino before the death of St. Valerian) and his nephew Nepotian; Nicetas, subdeacon, and Chrysogonus, a monk. It appears from the Chronicle and Letters of St. Jerom, that Heliodorus, Nepotian, Nicetus, and Florentius were also monks. The monastic state had been introduced in Italy by St. Athanasius, during his exile there, as St. Jerom testifies. 11 Cardinal Noris observes, that he made a long stay at Aquileia. 12 By that great saint’s account of the lives of St. Antony, and other monks in Egypt, many were excited to imitate them, and a great monastery was founded in Aquileia, which the learned Fontanini calls the first in Italy, though others think St. Eusebius of Vercelli, upon his return from the East, had built one in his own city before this. Others were soon after erected at Rome, Milan, and other places. When St. Athanasius committed to writing the life of St. Antony, he mentions, that there were then several monasteries in Italy.

  Tyranius Rufinus, famous first for his friendship, and afterwards for his controversies with St. Jerom, entered himself a monk at Aquileia, in 370, as is clear both from his own and St. Jerom’s works. 13 He was a native of Concordia, not the city of that name near Mirandola, but a small town in the territory of Aquileia, where during the residence of St. Jerom in that city, he was baptized in the great church by St. Valerian; St. Chromatius, Jovinus, and Eusebius assisting, whom, on this account, Rufinus afterwards calls his three fathers or sponsors; 14 one being sponsor at catechism, another at baptism, and a third at confirmation. This testimony confutes the mistake of Dom Martenne, 15 and Gerard Maestricht, who imagine that anciently no more than one sponsor was ever admitted for the same person. 16 St. Jerom shut himself up in this monastery at Aquileia for some time, that he might with greater leisure and freedom pursue his studies, in the course of which he was closely linked in friendship with Rufinus, and with great grief saw himself, by some unknown accident, torn from his company. 17 From what quarter this storm arose is uncertain; though it seems to have come from his own family; for he mentions, that paying his friends a visit, he found his sister had been drawn aside from the path of virtue. He brought her to a deep sense of her duty, and engaged her to make a vow of perpetual continency; in which affair he probably met with those difficulties which obliged him, for the sake of his own peace, to leave that country: his aunt Castorina, about the same time, vowed her continency to God.

 St. Jerom returned to Rome, resolving to betake himself wholly to his studies and retirement. In his letters to Pope Damasus he testifies that he received at Rome the sacrament of regeneration: Tillemont thinks this happened after his return from Aquileia, because the saint tells us that his merciful conversion to God happened when he resided near the Rhine. 18 But Martianay and Fontanini more probably maintain that he was baptized before he left Rome to go into Gaul, though it was only at Triers that he engaged himself by vow to serve God in a state of perpetual continency. Experience soon convinced him that neither his own country nor Rome were fit places for a life of perfect solitude, at which he aimed, wherefore he resolved to withdraw into some distant country. Bonosus, his countryman and relation, who had been the companion of all his studies and travels from his infancy, did not enter into his views on this occasion, but retired into a desert island on the coast of Dalmatia, and there led a monastic life. Evagrius, the celebrated priest of Antioch, who was come into the West upon the affairs of that church, offered himself to our saint to be his guide into the East; and Innocent, Heliodorus, and Hylas (who had been a servant of Melania) would needs bear him company. They crossed Thrace, Pontus, Bithynia, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Cilicia. Wherever he came he visited the anchorets and other persons of eminent sanctity, whose conversation might afford him instruction and edification. At that time many such flourished in the East, especially in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Rufinus names among those whose blessing he received in Egypt the two Macariuses, Isidore in Sceté, Pambo in the Cells, Pœmen and Joseph in Pisphir or the Mountain of Antony. St. Jerom reckons among them Amos, Macarius the disciple of Antony, &c. Amongst other holy rules which they observed, he takes notice in his letter to Rusticus, that the monasteries of Egypt were wont to admit none who did not follow some manual labour, not so much for the necessity of their subsistence as for the sanctification of their souls.

  Being arrived at Antioch, St. Jerom made some stay in that city to attend the lectures of Apollinaris, who had not yet openly broached his heresy, and then read comments upon the scriptures with great reputation. St. Jerom had carried nothing with him but his library, and a sum of money to bear the charges of his journey. But Evagrius, who was rich, supplied him with all necessaries, and maintained several amanuenses to write for him and assist him in his studies. The saint having spent some time at Antioch, went into a hideous desert, lying between Syria and Arabia, in the country of the Saracens, where the holy abbot Theodosius received him with great joy. This wilderness took its name from Chalcis, a town in Syria, and was situated in the diocess of Antioch. Innocent and Hylas soon died in this desert, and Heliodorus left it to return into the West; but Jerom spent there four years in studies, and the fervent exercises of piety. In this lonely habitation he had many fits of sickness, but suffered a much more severe affliction from violent temptations of impurity, which he describes as follows: 19 “In the remotest part of a wild and sharp desert, which being burnt up with the heats of the scorching sun, strikes with horror and terror even the monks who inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and assemblies of Rome. I loved solitude, that in the bitterness of my soul, I might more freely bewail my miseries, and call upon my Saviour. My hideous emaciated limbs were covered with sackcloth; my skin was parched dry and black, and my flesh was almost wasted away. The days I passed in tears and groans, and when sleep overpowered me against my will, I cast my wearied bones, which hardly hung together, upon the bare ground, not so properly to give them rest, as to torture myself. I say nothing of my eating and drinking: for the monks in that desert, when they are sick, know no other drink but cold water, and look upon it as sensuality ever to eat any thing dressed by fire. In this exile and prison, to which, for the fear of hell, I had voluntarily condemned myself, having no other company but scorpions and wild beasts, I many times found my imagination filled with lively representations of dances in the company of Roman ladies, as if I had been in the midst of them. My face was pale with fasting; yet my will felt violent assaults of irregular desires: In my cold body, and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, concupiscence was able to live; and though I vigorously repressed all its sallies, it strove always to rise again, and to cast forth more violent and dangerous flames. Finding myself abandoned, as it were, to the power of this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was. I often joined whole nights to the days, crying, sighing, and beating my breast till the desired calm returned. I feared the very cell in which I lived, because it was witness to the foul suggestions of my enemy: and being angry and armed with severity against myself, I went alone into the most secret parts of the wilderness, and if I discovered any where a deep valley or a craggy rock, that was the place of my prayer, there I threw this miserable sack of my body. The same Lord is my witness, that after so many sobs and tears, after having in much sorrow looked long up to heaven, I felt most delightful comforts and interior sweetness; and these so great, that, transported and absorpt, I seemed to myself to be amidst the choirs of angels; and glad and joyful I sung to God: After thee, O Lord, we will run in the fragrancy of thy celestial ointments.” 20

  In this manner does God, who often suffers the fidelity of his servants to be severely tried, strengthen them, by his triumphant grace, and abundantly recompense their constancy. St. Jerom, among the arms with which he fortified himself against this dangerous enemy, added to his corporal austerities a new study, which he hoped would fix his rambling imagination, and, by curbing his will, give him the victory over himself. This was, after having dealt only in polite and agreeable studies, to learn of a converted Jew the Hebrew alphabet, and form his mouth to the uncouth aspirations and difficult pronunciation of that language. “When my soul was on fire with bad thoughts,” says he, 21 writing to the monk Rusticus in 411, “that I might subdue my flesh, I became a scholar to a monk who had been a Jew, to learn of him the Hebrew alphabet: and after I had most diligently studied the judicious rules of Quintilian, the copious flowing eloquence of Cicero, the grave style of Fronto, and the smoothness of Pliny, I inured myself to hissing and broken-winded words. What labour it cost me, what difficulties I went through, how often I despaired and left off, and how I began again to learn, both I myself who felt the burden, can witness, and they also who lived with me. And I thank our Lord, that I now gather sweet fruit from the bitter seed of those studies.” However, he still continued to read the classics with an eagerness and pleasure which degenerated into a passion, and gave him just remorse, it being an impediment to the perfect disengagement of his affections, and the entire reign of God in his heart. Of this disorder he was cured by the merciful hand of God. The saint, in his long epistle to Eustochium, exhorting that virgin, who had embraced a religious state, to read only the holy scriptures and other books of piety and devotion, relates, that being seized with a grievous sickness in the desert, in the heat of a burning fever, he fell into a trance or dream, in which he seemed to himself arraigned before the dreadful tribunal of Christ. Being asked his profession, he answered, that he was a Christian. “Thou liest,” said the judge, “thou art a Ciceronian: for the works of that author possess thy heart.” 22 The judge thereupon condemned him to be severely scourged by angels; the remembrance of which chastisement left a strong impression upon his imagination after his recovery, and gave him a deep sense of his fault. He promised the judge never more to read those profane authors. “And from that time,” says he, “I gave myself to the reading of divine things with greater diligence and attention than I had ever read other authors.” He indeed declares this to have been a dream: 23 nevertheless be looked upon it as a divine admonition, by which he was put in mind of a fault incompatible with the perfection to which every Christian, especially a monk, ought to aspire. From that time he corrected this immoderate passion for reading the classics. 24 Besides interior trials and temptations, St. Jerom met with many persecutions from the world, of which he writes as follows: “Would to God that all the infidels would rise up together against me, for having defended the glory and the name of the Lord! I wish that the whole world would conspire in blaming my conduct, that I may, by this means, obtain the approbation of Jesus Christ. You are deceived if you think that a Christian can live without persecution. He suffers the greatest who lives under none. Nothing is more to be feared than too long a peace. A storm puts a man upon his guard, and obliges him to exert his utmost efforts to escape shipwreck.”

  A great schism at that time divided the church of Antioch, some acknowledging Meletius, and others Paulinus, patriarch. The breach was considerably widened when the Apollinarist heretics chose Vitalis, a man of their sect, bishop of that great city. The monks in the desert of Chalcis warmly took part in this unhappy division, and were for compelling St. Jerom to declare to which of these candidates he adhered. Another controversy among them was, whether one or three hypostases were to be acknowledged in Christ. The Greek word hypostasis was then ambiguous, being by some used for nature, by others for person or subsistence; though it is now taken only for the latter. The Arians on one side, and the Sabellians on the other, sought to ensnare the faithful under the ambiguity of this word. Our saint therefore stood upon his guard against their captious artifices, and answered with caution that if Nature was understood by this word, there was but one in God; but if Person, that there were three. Teased, however, by these importunities, and afflicted with a bad state of health, he left his wilderness, after having passed in it four years, and went to Antioch to his friend Evagrius. A little before he left his desert, he wrote two letters to consult St. Damasus, who had been raised to the papal throne at Rome in 366, what course he ought to steer. In the first he says: 25 “I am joined in communion with your holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter; upon that rock I know the church is built. Whoever eats the lamb out of that house is a profane person. Whoever is not in the ark shall perish in the flood. I do not know Vitalis; I do not communicate with Meletius; Paulinus is a stranger to me. Whoever gathers not with you, scatters; that is, he who is not Christ’s, belongs to Antichrist. We ask what this word hypostasis signifies? They say, A subsisting person. We answer, that if that be the meaning of the word, we agree to it. Order me, if you please, what I should do.” This letter was written toward the end of the year 376, or in the beginning of 377. The saint, not receiving a speedy answer, sent soon after another letter to Damasus on the same subject, in which he conjures his holiness to answer his difficulties, and not despise a soul for which Jesus Christ died. “On one side,” said he, “the Arian fury rages, supported by the secular power: on the other side, the church (at Antioch) being divided into three parts, each would needs draw me to itself. All the time I cease not to cry out: ‘Whoever is united to the chair of Peter he is mine.’” 26 The answer of Damasus is not extant: but it is certain that he and all the West acknowledged Paulinus patriarch of Antioch, and St. Jerom received from his hands at Antioch the holy order of priesthood before the end of the year 377; to which promotion he only consented on this condition, that he should not be obliged to serve that or any other church in the functions of his ministry. Soon after his ordination he went into Palestine, and visited the principal holy places situated in different parts of that country, but made Bethlehem his most usual residence. He had recourse to the ablest Jewish doctors to inform himself of all particulars relating to all the remarkable places mentioned in the sacred history, 27 and he neglected no means to perfect himself in the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue. For this he addressed himself to the most skilful among the Jews: one of his masters, by whose instructions he exceedingly improved himself, spoke Hebrew with such gracefulness, true accent, and propriety of expression, that he passed among the Jewish doctors for a true Chaldean. 28

  About the year 380, our saint went to Constantinople, there to study the holy scriptures under St. Gregory Nazianzen, who was then bishop of that city. In several parts of his works he mentions this with singular satisfaction, and gratitude for the honour and happiness of having had so great a master in expounding the divine oracles, as that most eloquent and learned doctor. Upon St. Gregory’s leaving Constantinople, in 381, he returned into Palestine. Not long after, he was called to Rome, as he testifies. 29 He went thither in the same year, 381, with St. Paulinus of Antioch and St. Epiphanius, who undertook that journey to attend a council which Damasus held about the schism of Antioch. The two bishops staid the winter in Rome, and then returned into the East; but Pope Damasus detained St. Jerom with him, and employed him as his secretary in writing his letters, in answering the consultations of bishops, and in other important affairs of the church. 30

  Our holy doctor soon gained at Rome a universal love and esteem, on account of his religious life, his humility, eloquence, and learning. Many among the chief nobility, clergy, and monks sought to be instructed by him in the holy scriptures, and in the rules of Christian perfection. He was charged likewise with the conduct of many devout ladies, as St. Marcella, her sister Asella, and their mother Albina; Melania the elder, (who is not less famous by the praises of St. Jerom 31 than by those of Rufinus,) Marcellina, Felicitas, Lea, Fabiola, Læta, Paula, and her daughters, with many others. The holy widow, St. Marcella, having lost her husband in the seventh month after her marriage, refused to marry Cerealis, who had been consul, retired to a country-house near Rome, and made choice of a monastic life forty years before this, in 341, under Pope Julius I., when St. Athanasius came to Rome, from whom she received an account of the life of St. Antony, who was then living. She was instructed by St. Jerom in the critical learning of the holy scripture, in which she made great progress, and learned in a short time many things which had cost him abundance of labour. St. Jerom, in one letter, explains to her the ten Hebrew names of God, and the Hebrew words which are adopted in the church office. 32 In another he explains the Ephod and Teraphim, 33 and so in others. St. Marcella died in 412, and St. Jerom wrote her funeral elegy to her spiritual daughter Principia. 34 Lea was at the head of a monastery of virgins whom she instructed more by example than by words. She used to spend whole nights in prayer; her clothes and food were very mean, but free from all affectation or ostentation. She was so humble that she appeared to be the servant of all her sisters, though she had formerly been mistress of a great number of slaves. The church honours her memory on the 22nd of March. St. Jerom wrote her funeral elegy after her death, in 384. 35

  Asella was consecrated to God at the age of ten years, and at twelve retired into a cell, where she lay on the ground, and lived upon bread and water, fasting all the year, and being often two or three days without eating, especially in Lent; yet her austerities did not impair her health. She used to work with her hands, and never went abroad, unless it was to visit the churches of the martyrs, and that she did without being seen. Nothing was more cheerful and pleasing than her severity, nor more grave than her sweetness. Her very speech proclaimed her love of recollection and silence, and her silence spoke aloud to the heart. She never spoke to any man unless upon her spiritual necessities; even her sister Marcella could hardly ever see her. Her conduct was simple and regular, and in the midst of Rome she led a life of solitude. She was fifty years old in 384. 36 Fabiola was of the illustrious Fabian family, and, being obliged to be separated from her husband on account of his disorderly conduct, made use of the liberty allowed her by the civil laws, and took a second husband. After his death, finding this was against the laws of the gospel, she did public penance in the most austere and exemplary manner. After this she sold all her estate, and erected an hospital for the sick in Rome, where she served them with her own hands. She gave immense alms to several monasteries, which were built upon the coasts of Tuscany, and to the poor in Italy and Palestine. 37 She died at Rome about the year 400. 38 The most illustrious of the Roman ladies whom St. Jerom instructed, was St. Paula, 39 who engaged him to accept of a lodging in her house during his abode in Rome, that she and her family might more easily have recourse to him for their spiritual direction. He tells us that Marcella, Paula, Blesilla, and Eustochium spoke, wrote, and recited the Psalter in Hebrew as perfectly as in the Greek and Latin tongues. The instruction of these and many other devout persons did not so engross our saint’s time and attention, but he was always ready to acquit himself of all that Pope Damasus recommended to his care, and, by other labours, to render important services to the Catholic church. Pope Damasus died in December 384, and was succeeded by Siricius. The freedom which St. Jerom took in reproving the reigning vices of avarice, vanity, and effeminacy (which invectives several among the clergy took to themselves) raised him many powerful enemies. The authority of Pope Damasus kept them in awe so long as he lived; but after his death, envy and calumny were let loose upon our saint. His reputation was attacked in the most outrageous manner; even his simplicity, his manner of walking, his smiling, and the air of his countenance were found fault with. Neither did the severe and eminent virtue of the ladies who were under his direction, nor the reservedness of his own behaviour screen him from censures. 40 St. Jerom, partly to yield to this persecution of envy, and partly to follow his own strong inclination to solitude, after having staid about three years at Rome, resolved to return into the East, there to seek a quiet retreat. He embarked at Porto in the month of August, in 385, with his young brother Paulinian, a priest called Vincent, and some others, having been attended from Rome to the ship by many pious persons of distinction. Landing at Cyprus, he was received with great joy by St. Epiphanius. At Antioch he visited the bishop Paulinus, who, when he departed, attended him a considerable part of the way to Palestine. He arrived at Jerusalem in the middle of winter, near the close of the year 385, and in the following spring went into Egypt, to improve himself in sacred learning, and in the most perfect practices of the monastic institute. At Alexandria, he, for a month, received the lessons of the famous Didymus, and profited very much by his conversation in 386. 41 He visited the chief monasteries of Egypt; after which he returned into Palestine, and retired to Bethlehem. St. Paula, who had followed him thither, built for him a monastery, and put under his direction also the monastery of nuns, which she founded and governed. St. Jerom was soon obliged to enlarge his own monastery, and for that purpose sent his brother Paulinian into Dalmatia, to sell an estate which he still had there. For, as Sanchez and Suarez remark from this example, anciently private religious men could retain the dominion, or a property in estates, though by their vows they renounced the administration, unless they exercised it by the commission of the abbot. St. Jerom also erected an hospital, in which he entertained pilgrims. It was thought that he could not be further instructed in the knowledge of the Hebrew language; but this was not his own judgment of the matter; and he applied again to a famous Jewish master, called Bar-Ananias, who for a sum of money, came to teach him in the night-time, lest the Jews should know it. 42 Church history, which is called one of the eyes of theology, became a favourite study of our holy doctor. 43 All the heresies which were broached in the church in his time, found him a warm and indefatigable adversary.

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  Whilst he was an inhabitant of the desert of Chalcis, he drew his pen against the Luciferian schismatics. After the unhappy council of Rimini, in which many orthodox bishops had been betrayed, contrary to their meaning, into a subscription favourable to the Arians, St. Athanasius, in his council at Alexandria, in 362, and other Catholic prelates, came to a resolution to admit those prelates to communion, upon their repentance. This indulgence displeased Lucifer, bishop of Cagliari, a person famous for his zeal and writings against the Arians, in the reign of Constantius. He likewise took offence at the Oriental Catholic bishops refusing to hold communion with Paulinus, whom with his own hands he had consecrated bishop of Antioch, in the place of St. Eustathius. He carried matters so far as to separate himself from the communion of all those who admitted the bishops who had subscribed to the council of Rimini, even after they had made a reasonable satisfaction. This gave rise to his schism, in which he had some few followers at Antioch, in Sardinia, and in Spain. He is not accused of any error in faith. Leaving Antioch, where he had sown the first seeds of his schism, he returned into Sardinia, and died at Cagliari, nine years after, in 371. 44 St. Jerom composed a Dialogue against the Luciferians, in which he plainly demonstrates, by the acts of the council of Rimini, that in it the bishops were imposed upon. In the same work he confutes the private heresy of Hilary, a Luciferian deacon at Rome, that the Arians, and all other heretics and schismatics, were to be rebaptized; on which account St. Jerom calls him the Deucalion of the world. 45

  Our holy doctor, whilst he resided at Rome, in the time of Pope Damasus, in 384, composed his book against Helvidius, On the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 46 That heretic was an Avian priest, a disciple of the impious Auxentius of Milan, and had wrote a book, in which he broached this error, that Mary did not always remain a virgin, but had other children by St. Joseph, after the birth of Christ. This heresy was also adopted by Jovinian, who having spent his youth at Milan in fasting, manual labour, and other austerities of a monastic state, left his monastery, went to Rome, and there began to spread his errors, which may be chiefly reduced to these four: That they who have been regenerated by baptism with perfect faith, cannot be again vanquished by the devil. That all who shall have preserved the grace of baptism, will have an equal reward in heaven: That virgins have no greater merit before God than married women, if they are equal in other virtues; and, that the Mother of God was not always a virgin: lastly, That abstinence from certain meats is unprofitable. 47 Jovinian lived at Rome in a manner suitable to his sensual principles. Though he still called himself a monk, and observed celibacy, he threw off his black habit, wore fine white stuffs, linen, and silks, curled his hair, frequented the baths and houses of entertainment, and was fond of sumptuous feasts and delicate wines. St. Pammachius and certain other noble laymen, were scandalized at his new doctrine, and having met with a writing of Jovinian, in which these errors were contained, carried it to Pope Siricius, who, assembling his clergy in 390, condemned the same, and cut off Jovinian, and eight others (who are named together as authors of this new heresy) from the communion of the church. Upon this, Jovinian, and the rest who were condemned, withdrew to Milan, and Siricius sent thither the sentence of condemnation he had published against them, with a brief confutation of their errors, so that they were rejected there by every body with horror, and driven out of the city. St. Ambrose also held a council of seven bishops who happened then to be at Milan, in which these errors were again condemned. 48 Two years after this, St. Jerom wrote two books Against Jovinian. 49 In the first, he shows the merit and excellency of holy virginity embraced for the sake of virtue; which he demonstrates from St. Paul, and other parts of the New Testament, from the tradition and sense of the church, from the celibacy of its ministers, and from the advantages of this state for piety, especially for the exercises of prayer, though he grants marriage to be holy in the general state of the world. Jovinian himself confessed the obligation of bishops to live continent, and that a violation of a vow of virginity is a spiritual incest. 50 Our saint, in his second book, confutes the other errors of that heresiarch. Certain expressions in this work seemed to some persons in Rome, harsh, and derogatory from the honour due to matrimony: and St. Pammachius informed St. Jerom of the offence which some took at them. The holy doctor wrote his Apology to Pammachius, sometimes called his third book against Jovinian, 51 in which he shows, from his own book, which had raised this clamour, that he commended marriage as honourable and holy, and protests that he condemns not even second and third marriages. He repeated the same thing in a letter which he wrote to Domnio, about the same time, and upon the same subject. 52

  In the year 404, Riparius, a priest in Spain, wrote to St. Jerom, to acquaint him that Vigilantius, a native of Convenæ, now called Comminges, in Gaul, but a priest of Barcelona, depreciated the merit of holy virginity, and condemned the veneration of relics, calling those who paid it idolaters and Cinerarians, or worshippers of ashes. St. Jerom, in his answer, exclaimed loudly against those novelties, and said: “We do not adore the relics of the martyrs; but we honour them that we may adore him whose martyrs they are. We honour the servants, that the respect which is paid to them may be reflected back on the Lord.” He prayed Riparius to send him Vigilantius’s book, which he no sooner received, than he set himself to confute it in a very sharp style. 53 He shows, first, the excellency of virginity, and the celibacy of the clergy, from the discipline observed in the three patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. He vindicates the honour paid to martyrs from idolatry, because no Christian ever adored them as gods. Vigilantius complained, that their relics were covered with precious silks. St. Jerom asked him, if Constantius was guilty of sacrilege, when he translated to Constantinople, in rich shrines, the relics of SS. Andrew, Luke, and Timothy, in the presence of which the evil spirits roar? or, Arcadius, when he caused the bones of Samuel to be carried out of Palestine to Thrace, where they were deposited with the greatest honour and solemnity, in a church built in honour of that prophet near the Hebdomon? In order to show that the saints pray for us, St. Jerom saith: “If the apostles and martyrs, being still living upon earth, can pray for other men, how much more may they do it after their victories? Have they less power now they are with Jesus Christ?” He insists much on the miracles wrought at their tombs. Vigilantius said they were for the sake of the infidels. The holy doctor answers, they would still be no less a proof of the power of the martyrs, and, testifying his respect for these relics and holy places, he says of himself: “When I have been molested with anger, evil thoughts, or nocturnal illusions, I have not dared to enter the churches of the martyrs.” He mentions, that the bishops of Rome offered up sacrifices to God over the venerable bones of the apostles Peter and Paul, and made altars of their tombs. He accuseth Eunomius of being the author of this heresy, and says, that if his new doctrine were true, all the bishops in the world would be in an error. He defends the institution of vigils and the monastic state; and says, that a monk seeks his own security by flying occasions and dangers, because he mistrusteth his own weakness, and is sensible that there is no safety if a man sleep near a serpent. St. Jerom often speaks of the saints in heaven praying for us. Thus he entreated Heliodorus to pray for him when he should be in glory, 54 and told St. Paula, upon the death of her daughter Blesille: 55 “She now prayeth the Lord for you, and obtaineth for me the pardon of my sins.”

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  Our saint was also engaged in a long war against Origenism. Few ever made more use of Origen’s works, and no one seemed a greater admirer of his erudition than St. Jerom declared himself for a considerable time: 56 but finding in the East that several monks and others had been seduced into grievous errors by the authority of his name, and some of his writings, our saint joined St. Epiphanius in warmly opposing the spreading evil. This produced a violent quarrel between him and his old friend Rufinus, after an intimacy of twenty-five years; 57 the latter every where extolling the authority of Origen, and having translated into Latin the most erroneous of all his works, though it afterwards appeared by his conduct that he had no design to favour the pestilential heresies of the Origenists, who denied the eternity of the torments of hell, held the pre-existence of souls, the plurality of worlds succeeding one another to eternity, and other errors. St. Jerom could suffer no heresy to pass without his censure. Being informed by one Ctesiphon, that the errors of Pelagius made great progress in the East, and that many were seduced by them, he wrote him a short confutation thereof in 414. He again handled the same questions in his Dialogue against the Pelagians, which he published in 416. In these dialogues he writes: “I will answer them that I never spared heretics, and have done my utmost endeavours that the enemies of the church should be also my enemies.” 58 He was deeply concerned to hear of the plundering of Rome by Alaric in 410, and of the cruel famine which succeeded that calamity. Many Romans fled as far as Bethlehem, and it was the charitable employment of our saint to entertain them, and give them all possible succour and comfort. He was shocked at the sight of such a number of noble fugitives of both sexes, reduced at once to beggary; after possessing immense riches, now seeking food and shelter, naked, wounded; and still as they wandered about, exposed to the insults of barbarians, who thought them loaded with gold: all these miseries forced tears from the saint’s eyes, whilst he was endeavouring to find means to assist them. When Demetrias, daughter of the consul Olibrius, took the religious veil at Carthage, her mother Juliana, and her grandmother Proba, wrote to St. Jerom, praying him to give her some instructions for her conduct. In order to comply with their request, he wrote her a long letter, in which he directed her how she was to serve God, recommending to her pious reading, the exercise of penance, constant but moderate fasting, obedience, humility, modesty, almsdeeds, prayers at all hours of the day, and working daily with her hands. He would have her rather choose to dwell in a nunnery with other virgins, than to live alone, as at that time some did.

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  Nothing has rendered the name of St. Jerom so famous as his critical labours on the holy scriptures. For this the church acknowledges him to have been raised by God through a special providence, and particularly assisted from above, and she styles him the greatest of all her doctors in expounding the divine oracles. Pope Clement VIII. scruples not to call him a man, in translating the holy scriptures, divinely assisted and inspired. He was furnished with the greatest helps for such an undertaking, living many years upon the spot, whilst the remains of ancient places, names, customs, which were still recent, and other circumstances, set before his eyes a clearer representation of many things recorded in holy writ than it is possible to have at a great distance of place and time: as the multitude of lizards, and many other circumstances, which still occur in the country where Virgil wrote his Bucolics, paint a lively image of his beautiful similes and allusions, so that the eye seems almost to behold the objects, and the other senses are in like manner struck with them, almost as if they were present. The Greek and Chaldaic were then living languages, and the Hebrew, though it had ceased to be such from the time of the captivity, was not less perfectly understood and spoken among the doctors of the law in its full extent, and with the true pronunciation. It was carefully cultivated in the Jewish academy, or great school of Tiberias, out of which St. Jerom had a master. It is long since become very imperfect, reduced to a small number of radical words, and only to be learned from the Hebrew Bible, the only ancient book in the world extant in that language. Most of the Rabbinical writers are more likely to mislead us in the study of the Hebrew sacred text, than to direct us in it; so that we have now no means to come at many succours which St. Jerom had for this task. 59 Among others, the Hexapla of Origen, which he possessed pure and entire, were not the least; and, by comparing his version with the present remains of those of Aquila, Theodotio, and Symmachus, we find he had often recourse to them, especially to that of Symmachus. 60 Above other conditions, it is necessary that an interpreter of the holy scriptures be a man of prayer and sincere piety. This alone can obtain light and succour from heaven, give to the mind a turn and temper which are necessary for being admitted into the sanctuary of the divine oracles, and present the key. Our holy doctor was prepared by a great purity of heart, and a life spent in penance and holy contemplation, before he was called by God to this important undertaking.

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  A Latin translation of the Bible was made from the Greek in the time of the apostles, and probably approved or recommended by some of them, especially, according to Rufinus, 61 by St. Peter, who, as he says, sat twenty-five years at Rome. That it was the work of several hands is proved by Mr. Milles, who, during the space of thirty years, examined all the editions and versions of the sacred text with indefatigable application, 62 by Calmet 63 and Blanchini. 64 In the fourth century great variations had crept into the copies, as St. Jerom mentions, so that almost every one differed. 65 For many that understood Greek, undertook to translate anew some part or to make some alterations from the original. 66 However, as Blanchini observes, these alterations seem to have been all grafted upon, or inserted in the first translation: for they seem all to have gone under the name of the Latin Vulgate, or Common Translation. Amongst them one obtained the name of the Italic, perhaps because it was chiefly used in Italy and Rome; and this was far preferable to all the other Latin editions, as St. Austin testifies. To remedy the inconvenience of this variety of editions, and to correct the faults of bold or careless copiers, Pope Damasus commissioned St. Jerom to revise and correct the Latin version of the gospels by the original Greek: which this holy doctor executed to the great satisfaction of the whole church. 67 He afterwards did the same with the rest of the New Testament. 68 This work of St. Jerom’s differs very much in the words from the ancient Italic. It insensibly took place in all the Western churches, and is the Latin Vulgate of the New Testament, which is now everywhere in use. 69 The edition of the Greek Septuagint which was inserted in Origen’s Hexapla, being the most exact extant, St. Jerom corrected by it the ancient Italic of many books of the Old Testament, and twice the Psalter: first by order of Pope Damasus at Rome, about the year 382; and a second time at Bethlehem, about the year 389.

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  His new translation of the books of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew, made from the original text, was a more noble and a more difficult undertaking. 70 Many motives concurred to engage him in this work; as, the earnest entreaties of many devout and illustrious friends, the preference of the original to any version how venerable soever, and the necessity of answering the Jews, who in all disputations would allow no other. He did not translate the books in order, but began by the books of Kings, and took the rest in hand at different times. This translation of St. Jerom’s was received in many churches in the time of St. Gregory the Great, who gave it the preference. 71 And in a short time after, St. Isidore of Seville wrote that all churches made use of it. 72 They retained the ancient Italic version of the psalter, which they were accustomed to sing in the divine office; but admitted by degrees, in some places the first, in others the second correction of St. Jerom upon the Seventy; and this is printed in the Vulgate Bible, not his translation. The old Italic without his correction is still sung in the church of the Vatican, and in St. Mark’s at Venice. The books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, the two books of the Machabees; the prophecy of Baruch, the epistle of Jeremy, the additions at the end of Esther, and the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Daniel, and the Canticle of the Three Children, are in the ancient Vulgate, because they were not translated by St. Jerom, not being extant in Hebrew or Chaldaic. The rest of the Old Testament in the present Vulgate is taken from the translation of St. Jerom, except certain passages retained from the old Vulgate or Italic. 73

  St. Jerom’s translation of the Bible was correctly published by Dom Martianay, under the title of his Sacred Library: this composes the first volume of his works in the Benedictin edition. This saint ascertained the geographical description of ancient Palestine, by translating, correcting, and enlarging Eusebius’s book, On the Holy Places, and by his letters to Dardanus and Fabiola. In several little treatises and epistles he has cleared a great number of critical difficulties relating to the Hebrew text of the Holy Bible. In his Commentaries on the Prophets, he inquires after the sense of the Hebrew text or Truth, as he calls it, to which he scrupulously adheres, though he compares it with all the ancient Greek translations. He adds short allegorical explications, and professes that he sometimes inserts certain opinions and interpretations of Origen and others, without adopting or approving them. His Commentary on St. Matthew he calls only an essay which he wrote in the compass of a few days, to satisfy the importunity of a friend, with an intention to enlarge and improve it when he should have leisure for such an undertaking, which he never found. 74

  St. Jerom, towards the end of his life, was obliged to interrupt his studies by an incursion of barbarians, who penetrated through Egypt into Palestine, 75 and, some time after, by the violences and persecutions of the Pelagians, who, after the council of Diospolis, in 416, relying on the protection of John of Jerusalem, sent the year following a troop of seditious banditti to Bethlehem, to assault the holy monks and nuns who lived there under the direction of St. Jerom. 76 Some were beaten, and a deacon was killed by them. The heretics set fire to all the monasteries, and reduced them to ashes. St. Jerom with great difficulty escaped their fury by a timely flight, retiring to a strong castle. The two virgins, St. Eustochium and her niece, the younger Paula, were exposed still to greater dangers, and saw their habitation consumed with fire, and those who belonged to them most barbarously beaten before their faces. After this storm St. Jerom continued his exercises and labours, hated by all enemies of the church, but beloved and reverenced by all good men, as St. Sulpicius Severus, and St. Austin 77 testify. Having triumphed over all vices, subdued the infernal monsters of heresies, and made his life a martyrdom of penance and labours, at length by a fever, in a good old age, he was released from the prison of his body, in the year 420, on the 30th of September. His festival is mentioned in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, and in the Martyrologies of Bede, Usuard, &c. He was buried in a vault at the ruins of his monastery at Bethlehem; but his remains lie at present in the church of St. Mary Major at Rome. St. Jerom made the meditation on death and divine judgments the great employment of his solitude. The following saying is by some ascribed to him: “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!”

  It was equally in a spirit of penance, and of zeal to advance the divine honour, that this holy doctor applied himself with such unwearied diligence to those sacred studies, by which he rendered most eminent services to the church. The commentaries of the ancient fathers on the divine oracles are not all equally useful. Allegorical interpretations, unless pointed out by some inspired writer, serve chiefly to convey that moral instruction which they contain, and to introduce which they have been sometimes employed by great men in familiar discourses to the people. Of all commentaries those are most useful which expound the mysteries of faith, or dwell on and enforce Christian virtues by motives, founded in the literal genuine sense of the sacred writings, in which inspired words the perfect spirit, and, as it were, the marrow of all virtues is contained. It is only by assiduous humble meditation on the sacred text that its unexhausted riches in this respect, concealed in every tittle, can be understood. The admirable comments of St. Chrysostom will be an excellent guide and key; by making some parts of them familiar to us we shall inure ourselves to this method in our application to these sacred studies. We must bring with us that spirit of prayer, and that humble docility by which so many holy doctors have been rendered faithful interpreters of the word of God. The tradition of the church must be our direction. Without an humble submission to this light we are sure to be led astray, and the most learned men who do not stick close to this rule (as experience and the most sacred authority conspire to teach us) tread in the steps of all those whose study of the scriptures has hurt the church instead of serving her, as Dr. Hare, the learned bishop of Chichester, observes. 78 For, says he, “the orthodox faith does not depend upon the scriptures considered in themselves, but as explained by Catholic tradition.” As the solid interpretation of the sacred books is founded in the genuine and literal sense, to give this its fullest extent and force in every particle, the aid of sober criticism is to be called in; in which, among the Latin fathers, no one equals St. Jerom. But then his moderation must be imitated. What can be more absurd than that, in explaining the oracles of God, their end should be forgotten, and kept out of sight; that interpreters should stop at the shell, and spend all their time in grammatical and critical niceties, and make the divine truth an object of idle amusement and curiosity, or a gratification of foolish sinful vanity in displaying an empty show of philosophical learning, and insignificant criticism? This is the case of many huge volumes of modern commentators, in which Christ and virtue are scarcely named in the pretended expositions of those divine oracles which point out nothing but them. This made Mr. Reeves, an ingenious Protestant divine, say: the example of St. Jerom shows that criticism was not neglected by the fathers in interpreting and vindicating the holy scriptures: but they were chiefly solicitous in beautifully applying the types, figures, and prophecies, in setting forth Christ, and in bringing men to him. Whereas the learned Grotius and many other moderns are so jejune and empty, and so strangely sparing upon our Lord’s divinity, &c. that, upon comparison, there seems to me, says this author, as much difference between the ancients and some moderns, as between a man himself and his clothes stuffed with straw.
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Francisco Ribalta, Saint Jérôme, vers 1625, Musée des Beaux Arts de Valence

Note 1. St. Jerom tells us, that it was not in Illyricum or Dalmatia; some Italians have pretended that it was in Italy; but it seems certainly to have stood in Pannonia. St. Prosper tells us, in his Chronicle, that this great doctor died in 420, lived ninety-one years, and consequently was born in 329; which is adopted by Dr. Cave and Fleury. Martianay places his birth in 331. Tillemont, with Baronius and Dolci, gathers from what the saint hath written of himself, and from the circumstances of his life, that he was more probably born in 342, and lived only seventy-eight years. [back]

Note 2. Dolci proves from several passages of St. Jerom that his native language was the Illyrican, not the Latin. Whence he says, l. 2, adv. Rufin. that he was worn out almost from his cradle with the labour of learning the Latin tongue. [back]

Note 3. St. Jerom tells us that after he had gone through the study of rhetoric, he prepared himself by Porphyry’s Introduction for the Study of Logic, and that he studied the logical books of Aristotle. He mentions, that whilst he was a young student at Rome, he used on Sundays to visit, with his school-fellows, the cemeteries of the martyrs, or catacombs, which he describes, l. 12, in c. 40. Ezech. p. 979, 980: “When a boy I studied the liberal arts at Rome, I was wont to make a round to visit the tombs of the apostles and martyrs, with others of the same age and inclinations, and often to descend into the caves which are dug deep into the earth, and have for walls on each side the bodies of those that are interred there.” [back]

Note 4. Cod. Theodos. 13, t. 3, l. 11, p. 39, 40. [back]

Note 5. Auson. ep. 18, p. 644. [back]

Note 6. S. Hier. ep. 4, p. 6. [back]

Note 7. Ep. 1, p. 3. See Dom. Rivet, Hist. Littér. de la Fr. t. 1, part. 2, p. 12. [back]

Note 8. S. Hier. Præf. 2, in l. 2, in Galat. et ep. 4, p. 6. [back]

Note 9. Hist. Liter. Aquil. l. 3, c. 3, p. 124. [back]

Note 10. St. Chromatius, in eighteen homilies upon St. Matthew’s gospel, still extant, expounds the Lord’s Prayer, and recommends alms-deeds, fasting, and other virtues. His words are well chosen, his notions just, and his reflections useful. These eighteen homilies are in most editions corruptly printed in one, or as three treatises. See Ceillier, t. 10, p. 86. Fontanini, Hist. Liter. Aquil. l. 3, c. 4, p. 133. Sollier the Bollandist, ad diem 17, Aug. Henricus Palladius, l. 9, Annal. Forojul. [back]

Note 11. Ep. 96, alias 16, ad Principiam. [back]

Note 12. Noris, Hist. Pelag. l. 2, c. 3. [back]

Note 13. Rufin. Apol. 1. S. Hieron. Apol. 1 et 2 Chron. ad an. 376, &c. [back]

Note 14. Rufin. Apol. 1 et 2. Fontanini, l. 4, c. 1, p. 156, 157. [back]

Note 15. Edm. Martenne, l. 1, de antiqu. Eccl. ritibus, c. 16, § 12, Master. in Schediasmate de Susceptoribus, p. 69. [back]

Note 16. Du Pin, (Bib. t. 3,) Ceillier, (t. 10, p. 2,) and some others, by mistake, say, Rufinus was baptized in a chapel of the monastery. But it is certain that he received that sacrament in the cathedral, as Fontanini demonstrates, (l. 4, c. 1, p. 157,) nor was baptism ever solemnly administered but in cathedrals and parochial churches. Bertoli (Antichita d’Aquileia, p. 360,) describes in the chapel of St. Jerom, in the cathedral of Aquileia, a very old monument erected in memory of Rufinus being baptized in that place, though the name of St. Jerom has been substituted by some modern hand in the place of that of Rufinus. St. Jerom expressly says in two letters to Pope Damasus, that he put on the garment of Christ at Rome, which always means baptism. See Baronius ad ann. 57, and Jos. Vicecomes de ant. baptismi ritibus, l. 3, c. 6. [back]

Note 17. S. Hier. ep. 1, alias 41, &c. [back]

Note 18. Hier. ep. 1, alias 41, &c. [back]

Note 19. Ep. 22, ad Eustochium, de Virgin, c. 3. [back]

Note 20. Cantic. i. 3. [back]

Note 21. Ep. 95, ad Rustic. p. 769. [back]

Note 22. Ep. 18, alias 22, ad Eustoch. de Virginit. [back]

Note 23. S. Hieron. Apol. l. 1. [back]

Note 24. The fault consisted not in the eloquence of style, which St. Jerom proposed to himself, but in an excessive or passionate fondness for that profane study. When Kufin objected that he had broken his oath in still reading the profane classical authors, he answers that he could not blot out of his memory what he had before read, but had not opened any such books; though the oath was only a dream. In his comments on the Epistle to the Galatians, (l. 3,) he tells Paula and Eustochium that they well knew that he had not then opened Tully, Ovid, or any other pagan author of polite literature for fifteen years past, and that when anything of them occurred to his mind, in discourse, he remembered it as a dream which was passed. [back]

Note 25. Ep. 14, alias 57, ad Damas. p. 19, t. 4. [back]

Note 26. Ep. 16, alias 58, ad Damas. p. 22. [back]

Note 27. S. Hier. Præf. in Paralip. [back]

Note 28. T. 3, ad Damas. p. 515. [back]

Note 29. Ep. 16 et 27, ed. Vet. [back]

Note 30. S. Hier. in Apol. ad Pammac. et ep. 11. [back]

Note 31. S. Hier. ep. 1, alias 41, ep. 2, alias 5, ep. 22, alias 25. [back]

Note 32. T. 2, p. 704, ed. Ben. [back]

Note 33. Ibid. p. 611. [back]

Note 34. Ibid. p. 778. See January 31. [back]

Note 35. T. 2, par. 2. p. 51. [back]

Note 36. S. Hier. ep. 15, ad Marcell. ib. p. 52. [back]

Note 37. S. Jerom in two letters to Fabiola, p. 574, 586, and in her funeral elegy, which he wrote to Oceanus, p. 657. [back]

Note 38. Several letters of this holy doctor to those ladies or other devout persons, contain excellent advice and instructions for various states and conditions. Heliodorus, having left him in the desert of Chalcis in Syria to return home to Rome, St. Jerom wrote him a most eloquent letter to conjure him to come back to his retirement. He uses tender reproaches. “Nice soldier,” says he, “what are you doing in your father’s house? Remember that day wherein you listed yourself a soldier of Christ; then you took an oath of fidelity to him. Though your little nephew should hang about your neck—though your mother should tear her hair—though your father should lie down on the threshold of the door to stop you, step over your father, and follow the standard of the cross with dry eyes. It is great mercy to be cruel on such occasions. You are mistaken, brother, if you suppose that a Christian can be without persecution; he is then most violently assaulted when he thinks himself most secure.—You will say, clergymen live in cities. God forbid that I should speak evil of those who succeed the apostles, who consecrate the body of Jesus Christ with their holy mouths, who make us Christians, and who, holding the keys of the kingdom of heaven in their hands, judge, if I may so say, before the day of judgment.” He shows the difference between the states of a priest and of a monk, and deters him from consenting to be assumed into the clergy, because, though a worthy priest acquires a greater degree of perfection, “it is not the ecclesiastical dignity that makes good Christians. It is not easy for all men to have St. Paul’s graces, or St. Peter’s sanctity.” He eloquently extols the happiness of holy penance and solitude, in which heaven is open to us. Heliodorus determined to return to the desert; but, being ordained priest, was obliged to serve the church at Rome. His nephew, Nepotian, being a young ecclesiastic, St. Jerom wrote to him excellent rules for the conduct of a clergyman; as, 1. That Christ alone be his portion, so that in his heart he possess nothing but the Lord; and that though he live by the altar, he ought to be content with food and raiment, esteeming all the rest the portion of pilgrims and the poor. 2. That he never let women come near his house, or at least but seldom; have no familiarity with virgins consecrated to God; and either be acquainted with none, or love all equally, and never dwell in the same house with any. “Trust not your past chastity,” says he, “you are neither holier than David, nor stronger than Samson, nor wiser than Solomon. Visit not women alone; speak not with them face to face.” He forbids making feasts for laymen; recommends charity, prudence, discretion, modesty, and sobriety; but would have no excess in fasts. He strictly charges the clergyman not to have an itching tongue or ears, and that he never desire to be invited to dinner; and that, when he is invited, he seldom go, &c. Nepotian dying soon after this, St. Jerom wrote his panegyric to his uncle Heliodorus, then bishop of Altino, in which he draws an elegant portraiture of the shortness and uncertainty of life, commends the diligence and devotion of the deceased in adorning the chapels and altars of martyrs with flowers, &c. and comforts Heliodorus with the assurance that his nephew was then with Christ, in the company of the saints, (p. 283.)

  Rusticus, a native of Marseilles, and a monk, but living at Rome, having begged his advice, the saint gave him directions how to serve God in the monastic state. He recommends watchfulness and constant fervour, assiduity in manual labour, reading, meditation upon the scriptures, prayer, obedience, chastity, and fasting. He prefers the cenobitical life to that of hermits, as more secure, and would have persons live first in some religious community before they commence hermits. He says that it was a rule in the monasteries in Egypt to admit no one who could not or would not ply manual labour, not so much to gain a subsistence as to prevent bad thoughts, and avoid idleness. In singing the divine office the voice is not so much considered as the affection of the heart. “No art,” says he, “is learned without a master, much less that of salvation. Serve your brethren, wash the feet of strangers, be silent when you suffer wrong,” &c. He lays down humility and patience as a great means to overcome temptations, which he confirms by the following example: A young Greek who lived in a monastery in Egypt, was troubled with violent temptations of the flesh, and neither assiduous labour nor the most severe abstinence, strengthened by fervent prayer, delivered him from the annoyance of this dreadful enemy. His superior, to whom he disclosed his danger, gave privately orders to a certain grave companion to haunt him every where with the most reviling taunts and reproaches, and then to come and complain to the abbot against him, as if he had done the injury. When a year had passed in this manner, the young man was asked whether his former temptations still gave him any trouble? To this he answered: “Father, I have much ado to live, much less can any thoughts of pleasure infest my mind.” Rusticus was then returning to Gaul. Wherefore St. Jerom bids him govern himself by the admonitions of two holy bishops, that he might never decline on either side, or forsake the king’s highway. These were Proculus, the most religious and learned bishop of Marseilles, and Exuperius, bishop of Toulouse. Of the latter he says: “This holy prelate imitates the widow of Sarepta: he feeds others, and fasts himself; nothing but the hunger and wants of other men trouble him. He has given all his estate to the poor, yet no one is richer than he. He carries the body of our Lord Jesus Christ in an osier basket, and his precious blood in a glass vessel.—Follow the steps of this good bishop and other saints, whom the pastoral dignity has made poorer and more humble. If you would embrace a state more perfect, get out of your own country, as Abraham did; leave your kingdom; if you have any goods, sell them, and distribute the price to the poor. Strip yourself of all things to follow only Jesus Christ. ‘Nudum Christum nudus sequere.’ It is hard, I confess, it is great and difficult; but the recompence is infinite.” On the rules which this saint prescribed to holy virgins, see the life of St. Eustochium. His letters to widows usually contain strong exhortations to a retired penitential devout life, to which their condition particularly invites them. He speaks with great warmth against second marriages; though he grants them to be lawful, and without sin.

  Among this father’s letters of spiritual advice, there is not perhaps a more useful one than that which he wrote to Læta, wife of Toxotius, St. Paula’s son. It contains rules for the education of her little daughter, St. Paula the Younger, whom her grandmother designed for a religious life with her at Bethlehem. Her grandfather was a priest of Jupiter; but the rest of their family were Christians. St. Jerom exhorts them to convert him by their regularity, modesty, and virtuous deportment; a motive too strong for malice itself to resist. “I am persuaded,” says he, “that Jupiter himself might have believed in Jesus Christ, had he had such an alliance and family as yours.” St. Jerom puts Læta in mind that she had obtained her daughter of God at the tombs of the martyrs, only that she might be brought up to serve him. As to her education, he lays down the following rules: “Let her be brought up as Samuel was, in the temple; and the Baptist, in the desert, in utter ignorance of vanity and vice. Let her never hear, learn, or discourse of anything but what may conduce to the fear of God. Let her never hear bad words, nor learn profane songs; but, as soon as she can speak, let her learn some parts of the psalms. No rude boys must come near her; nor even girls or maids, but such as are strangers to the maxims and conversation of the world. Let her have an alphabet of little letters made of box or ivory, the names of all which she must know, that she may play with them, and that learning be made a diversion. When a little older, let her form each letter in wax with her finger, guided by another’s hand; then let her be invited, by prizes and presents suited to her age, to join syllables together, and to write the names of the patriarchs down from Adam. Let her have companions to learn with her, that she may be spurred on by emulation, and by hearing their praises. She is not to be scolded or browbeaten, if slower, but to be encouraged, that she may rejoice to surpass, and be sorry to see herself outstripped and behind others, not envying their progress, but rejoicing at it, and admiring it, whilst she reproaches her own backwardness. Great care is to be taken that she conceive no aversion to studies, lest their bitterness remain in riper years. Let the words which she learns be chosen and holy, such as the names of the prophets and apostles. Let her run down the genealogies from Adam, that even in this a foundation be prepared for her memory hereafter. A master must be found for her, who is a man both of virtue and learning: nor will a great scholar think it beneath him to teach her the first elements of letters, as Aristotle did Alexander the Great. That is not to be contemned without which nothing great can be acquired. The very sound of letters and the first documents are very different in a learned and in an unskilful mouth. Care must be taken that she be not accustomed by fond nurses to pronounce half words, or to play in gold and purple: the first would prejudice her speech, the second her virtue. Great care is necessary that she never learn what she will have afterwards to unlearn. The eloquence of the Gracchi derived its perfection from the mother’s elegance and purity of language; and that of Hortensius was framed from his father’s breast. What young minds imbibe is scarcely ever to be rooted out, and they are disposed sooner to imitate defects and vices than virtues and good qualities. Alexander, the conqueror of the world, could never correct the faults in his gait and manners, which he had learned in his childhood from his master Leonides. She must have no nurse or maid of light carriage, or who is talkative, or a tippler. When she sees her heathen grandfather, let her leap on his breast, hang about his neck, and sing in his ears Alleluia. Let her be amiable to all, but she must be apprized early that she is to be the spouse of Christ. No paint must ever touch her face or hair, to forebode the flames of hell.”
  Prætextata, wife of Hymetius, the uncle of Eustochium, by his orders, changed her dress and face, to endeavour to overcome her resolution of living a virgin; but an angel that same night said to her in her sleep, “Thou hast preferred the commands of thy husband to those of Christ, and presumed to touch the head of God’s virgin with thy sacrilegious hand, which shall this moment wither, and, after five months, thou shalt die, and unless thou repentest, be dragged to hell. If thou perseverest in thy crime, thou shalt also lose thy husband and children.” The event showed repentance came too late to avert the threat as to this world. Heli offended God by his children. (1 Reg. 1 et 4.) He cannot be made a bishop who has vicious children, (1 Tim.
iii.) and a woman is to be saved by her virtuous children. (ib.) “If the faults of grown up age be imputed to parents, much more are those of an age which knows not the right hand from the left. If you are solicitous your daughter should not be bit by a viper, how much more that she be not hurt by the poison of all the earth; let her not drink of the golden cup of Babylon, nor go abroad with Dina to see the daughters of the world. Let her never play with her feet, nor learn any levity or vanity. Poisons are only given disguised in honey, and vices never deceive but when presented under the appearance of virtues.”

  He adds advice, when she should be grown up, that she never stir out but with her parents, and tremble at the sight of a man, as the Blessed Virgin did at that of an angel in the appearance of a man; that she be usually to be found in the church or her chamber; never join with other girls in noisy plays, and never go to great banquets, for it is securer for temperance never to know what the palate might crave. He will have her drink no wine, unless a little mixed with water, and that only in her tender years. He prescribes that she be utterly ignorant of the very use of musical instruments; that she learn, first Greek, then Latin, her native language, which he would have cultivated from her infancy with the greatest correctness; for barbarism and faults then learnt are scarcely ever to be corrected. He lays down, as capital rules, that she never see anything in her father or mother which it would be a fault for her to imitate; and that she never go out, but with her mother, to the church or tombs of the martyrs. He adds, that she must read, pray, and work by turns the whole day, rise at night to prayer, recite the psalms, and be exact to the hours of the divine office, matins, tierce, sext, none, and vespers. She should learn to spin, weave, and make clothes, but only such as are modest, never fine ones, or such wherewith bodies clothed are made the more naked. Her food must be chiefly roots and herbs, sometimes a little fish: but she should eat so as always to be hungry, and to be able to read or sing psalms immediately after meals. He says, “The immoderate long fasts of many displease me. I have learned, by experience, that the ass too much fatigued in the road seeks rest at any rate. In a long journey strength must be supported, lest, by running the first stage too fast, we should fall in the middle. In Lent full scope is to be given to severe fasting, but more in seculars, who, like shell-fish, have their juice laid up to live on, than in those whose life is a perpetual fast. All baths displease me in a grown up virgin; though she be alone, she ought to blush at herself, and not bear to see any part of her own body naked.” He allows bathing sometimes in children. He advises that a person first learn the psalter, and sing it; that then by reading the Proverbs she study the precepts of virtue; next, by Ecclesiastes, she learn to despise the world; and learn by Job patience and piety; that after this she pass to the Gospels; (which are to be always in her hands;) next, to the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles; then get by heart the Prophets and the historical books; and, last of all, venture to take in her hands the book of Canticles, which she will be then prepared to understand in a spiritual sense. He adds, she may be conversant in the works of St. Cyprian, and may run over, without danger of error, the epistles of St. Athanasius, and the writings of St. Hilary. He desires Læta, if it were difficult to practise these lessons at Rome, to send the girl to her grandmother Paula, and her aunt Eustochium at Bethlehem, where her piety and education would be more secure; and he promises to be himself her master and tutor; adding, he should be more honoured by teaching a spouse of Christ, who is one day to be raised to heaven, than the philosopher was in being preceptor to the Macedonian king, who was soon to perish by Babylonian poison. Læta followed his advice. St. Paula the Younger being sent to Bethlehem, consecrated herself to Christ in her grandmother’s monastery, and seems, by the life of St. Martinian, to have been afterwards the foundress and abbess of a new nunnery there. Læta imitated at Rome the excessive charity to the poor, and other extraordinary virtues of her mother-in-law; and some time after this, embraced a state of perpetual continency; as St. Jerom testifies in his epitaph of Paula. Toxotius, who was then living, must have taken upon him a like engagement. 
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Note 39. See her life, Jan. 26. [back]

Note 40. S. Hier. ep. 95, ad Asellam. ep. 23, ad Marcel, ep. 25, ad Paulin. [back]

Note 41. Didymus, as St. Jerom, Rufinus, Socrates, Sozomen, Palladius, Theodoret, and others assure us, lost his sight by a humour which fell upon both his eyes in his infancy, when he just began to learn the alphabet. Nevertheless, he afterwards got the letters of the alphabet cut in wood, and learned to distinguish them by the touch. With the assistance of hired readers and copiers, he became acquainted with almost all authors sacred and profane, and acquired a thorough knowledge of grammer, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and chiefly a knowledge of the holy scriptures, so that he was esteemed a kind of prodigy. He added prayer to study, and St. Athanasius, and other great men, so highly approved his learning and piety, that the great school at Alexandria was committed to his care. He was born about the year 308, and lived fourscore and five years. He composed commentaries on the scriptures, and several other works, which are lost. His book on the Holy Ghost against the Macedonians is extant in St. Jerom’s Latin translation. We have also his treatise against the Manichees, published in Greek and Latin by Combefis in Auctar. in Latin only in the libraries of the Fathers, t. 4, in Canisius, t. 5, &c. His short Enarrations on the Canonical Epistles are extant, Bibl. Patrum. See Fabricius, Bibl. Græc. t. 8.

  There never seems to have been a more wonderful example of a learned blind man than Didymus. He who reads in Homer the most lively and beautiful images of all the objects of nature and art, must be himself blind in his understanding, if he believes the author could have been blind from his cradle. We have the English poems of Thomas Blacklock, the blind Scotsman, who was born at Annan, in 1721, and entirely lost his eyesight by the smallpox, when but six months old. In these we may agreeably trace the ideas which a blind man is capable of forming of all visible objects. A late extraordinary instance of a sagacious blind man, was Dr. Saunderson, who was born in 1682, and died at Cambridge in 1739. When twelve months old, he was deprived not only of his sight, but also of his eyes, by an abscess formed in both of them by the smallpox. He succeeded Mr. Cotes in the Plumian professorship of astronomy and mathematics at Cambridge, and his treatise of Algebra, in two vols. 4to. and other works, are monuments of his learning. But this lay in abstract sciences, and he knew corporeal objects only by the feeling. The late Dr. Richard Lucas composed, in a state of darkness, his famous Inquiry after Happiness; but only lost his sight in the middle age of life. Yet complains that the eyes or sense of others, by which he was obliged to learn, were instruments or organs as ill fitted, and as awkwardly managed by him, as wooden legs and hands by the maimed. Walkup, and the truly pious and eminent F. Le Jeune, called Père Jean l’Aveugle, are instances of the same kind; but not to be compared with the great Didymus. 
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Note 42. S. Hier. ep. 85. [back]

Note 43. St. Jerom compiled, in 392, his most useful Catalogue of illustrious men, or Ecclesiastical writers, in one hundred and thirty-five chapters. Before this, whilst he was at Constantinople, in 380, he translated into Latin the great chronicle of Eusebius, with some additions and corrections, and continued it down to that year. This work is the more valuable treasure, as the greater part of Eusebius’s Greek original is lost. Joseph Scaliger pretended to restore it; but imposed upon the world, under this title, scraps purloined from Cedrenus, George Syncellus, and other Greek chronologists, without any marks of distinction. That morose critic, who never gave himself time to digest by reflection what he devoured by reading all authors he could come at in every science, fell short in judgment of his father Julius, who had read much less, but thought more. His peevish censoriousness, a mark of intolerable pride, is a dishonour to learning, and to human nature.

  To return to St. Jerom; he wrote the life of St. Paul the first hermit whilst he lived in the desert of Chalcis, about the year 380: that of St. Hilarion before the year 392; and that of Malchus about the year 390. St. Malchus was born in the eastern part of Syria, thirty miles from Antioch, and led an anchoretical life in the desert of Chalcis, till going home to sell an estate that was fallen to him, in order to dispose of the price in alms, he was carried away captive by a troop of Ismaelites or Saracens, and fell to the lot of one who employed him in keeping sheep. This condition delighted him exceedingly, and he prayed and sung psalms continually. He was compelled to take to wife a Christian woman, who was a fellow-slave; but both agreed privately to live in perpetual continence, and kept a greater reservedness towards each other than even a brother and sister would have done. They at length made their escape through grievous dangers; and she ended her life in a house of holy virgins. Malchus served God according to the rules of his monastic state, near Maronia, which was the place of his birth. St. Jerom, who knew him in this place, in his decrepit old age, extols his extraordinary assiduity and fervour in prayer, and proposes as a model his constancy in preserving chastity in the midst of swords, deserts, and wild beasts, he being ready rather to die than to violate his vow, showing by his example, that a person consecrated to Christ may be killed, but cannot be conquered. 
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Note 44. See vol. v. p. 32, note. [back]

Note 45. S. Hier. Op. t. 4, part. 2, p. 289. [back]

Note 46. Ibid. p. 130. [back]

Note 47. S. Ambr. ep. 42. S. Aug. de hæret. c. 82. S. Hieron. 1, in Jovinian. [back]

Note 48. S. Ambr. ep. 42, ad Siricium, p. 968. [back]

Note 49. T. 4, part 2, p. 144. [back]

Note 50. S. Ambr. t. 4, par. 1, p. 175. [back]

Note 51. Ib. p. 244. [back]

Note 52. Ep. 37, ad Ripar. p. 279. [back]

Note 53. L. adv. Vigilant, t. 4, par. 2, p. 286. [back]

Note 54. Ep. 5, p. 7. [back]

Note 55. Ep. 24, p. 59. [back]

Note 56. See his letter to Paula, written before the year 392, p. 67. Also l. 2, in Michæam Præf. l. de Nominib. Hebraic. &c. likewise Rufinus Apolog. l. 2. [back]

Note 57. Tyrannius Rufinus coming from Aquileia to Rome, in 370, with an intent to go into the East, found there Melania, bent upon the same journey, she having lost her husband (who was of the most illustrious family of the Valerii) and two sons within the space of one year, in the twenty-second year of her age. She left behind her a little son called Publicola, who was the person of that name that afterwards corresponded with St. Austin, according to Tillemont and Fontanini. She went to Egypt with Rufinus in 372, as Fontanini shows, (not after Rufinus, as Rosweide, &c. imagine,) and having spent there six months in visiting the monasteries and anchorets, travelled to Jerusalem, and there led a religious life. Rufinus leaving her at Jerusalem returned to Egypt; and staid there six years; after which he joined Melania again at Jerusalem. (S. Jer. ep. 21, alias 15, ad Marcellam.) St. Paulinus and others exceedingly extol the virtues of this lady. St. Jerom from Chalcis most affectionately congratulated Rufinus upon his arrival in Egypt. (ep. 1, alias 41, ad Rufinum.) At Jerusalem, Rufinus, and several other monks who put themselves under his direction, lived in separate cells which he erected upon Mount Olivet: Melania squared her life by his direction, in a nunnery which she founded at Jerusalem; and, for twenty-seven years, entertained charitably all pilgrims and the poor, as Palladius testifies. Rufinus was ordained priest by John, bishop of Jerusalem, soon after the year 387.

  St. Jerom coming to settle at Bethlehem in 388, spent first a considerable time with Rufinus on Mount Olivet, and cultivated his friendship till the dispute about Origen’s doctrine produced, first a coldness, and, soon after, a violent disagreement between them. The first seeds of this quarrel were sown when one Aterbius having accused St. Jerom and Rufinus of Origenism, the former cleared himself by condemning the doctrine of Origen, but the latter refused to do it. (S. Hier. Apol. l. 3.) Soon after St. Epiphanius arrived at Jerusalem from Cyprus in 394, and lodging for some time with the bishop John, was scandalized at his great attachment to Origen, and could not extort from him a clear condemnation of the heresy of the Origenists; which he therefore began to lay to his charge. Leaving him he went to St. Jerom at Bethlehem, inflamed his zeal against all favourers of Origenism, and ordained his brother Paulinian first deacon, and then priest, in the twenty-eighth year of his age. Rufinus in this dispute adhered to his bishop John. This schism or quarrel continued about three years, but was extinguished by the endeavours of Melania in 397; and Rufinus and St. Jerom publicly joined hands after mass in the holy church of the Resurrection. (Anastasi, not Anastasii, as the new edition has it. St. Jerom Apol. l. 3, p. 466.) St. Jerom was also reconciled with his bishop John, and by his appointment governed the parish of Bethlehem. (S. Sulp. Sever. Dial. 1, c. 4.) His brother Paulinian whom St. Epiphanius took with him after his ordination, was suffered by John to reside and perform priestly functions in the monastery of Bethlehem. Rufinus and John gave satisfaction as to the purity of their faith, but retracted no errors, because they had maintained none. (See Fontanini, p. 190.) Rufinus and Melania made the most eminent saints in Egypt a second visit, in 395, and were present at the death of St. Pambo. Publicola, the son of Melania, prætor of Rome, took to wife Albina, by whom he had St. Melania the Younger, who was married very young to Pinian, whose father had been governor of Italy and Africa. She soon after her marriage obtained the consent of her husband to devote herself to the divine service in a state of continency. To assist her in this resolution Melania the Elder, embarking at Cæsarea with Rufinus, landed in twenty days at Naples, in 397, being then forty-seven years old, not sixty, as Fontanini demonstrates against Fleury. They were received with great joy and distinction by St. Paulinus at Nola.

  Rufinus left Melania at Rome, and retired to the monastery of Pinetum, situated on the sea-coast near Terracini, in the Campagna di Roma, as Fontanini shows against Noris and Mabillon. Here, at the earnest request of a nobleman, (who was a monk at Rome, and named Macarius,) he translated into Latin the first book out of the six, of St. Pamphilus’s Apology for Origen, adding a preface in which he endeavoured to show that all the erroneous passages found in any of the writings of that great man, were the interpolations of heretics. Abstracts of the rest of this Apology are found in Photius.

  Rufinus soon after, translated Origen’s four books On Principles, the chief source of the errors of the Origenists, though the translator says he corrected several passages. This book raised a great clamour at Rome as if Rufinus attempted to propagate the gross errors contained in it, though propounded only problematically. Rufinus, however, obtained communicatory letters of Pope Siricius, and with them went to Aquileia. Siricius dying on the 26th of November, 398, his successor, Anastasius, sent Rufinus a summons to come to Rome and justify himself; but he excused himself upon weak pretences, and only sent an apology for himself to Anastasius in 400, in which his profession of faith is orthodox, and very explicit, as to the Trinity, the Incarnation, the origin of Spirits, the Eternity of Hell, and other points. St. Jerom, at the entreaty of St. Pammachius and other friends in Rome, wrote both to Rufinus and Pammachius against this translation. Rufinus defended himself by his apology against St. Jerom, divided into two parts, called by modern copiers, his Invectives. In the first part, he chiefly labours to remove all sinister suspicion as to his faith or doctrine; in the second, he objects many things to St. Jerom, chiefly as to his writings. St. Jerom answered him by his Apology, divided also into two books. Rufinus replied by a private letter to St. Jerom, which is lost. St. Jerom answered him by the third book of his Apology, called his Second Apology, which contains little more than a repetition of his former objections. He closes it with these words: “Let us have but one faith; and we shall forthwith be at peace.” The saint’s most material objection is, that Rufinus had not condemned Origen’s Platonic notion of the pre-existence of souls. (Apol. l. 2.) St. Chromatius of Aquileia wrote to St. Jerom exhorting him to peace. Nothing can be more suitable for all persons that are engaged in any contest, than the tender letter which St. Austin sent to St. Jerom on this occasion. (S. Aug. ep. 73.) Nor did St. Jerom any more revive this dispute, to which a zeal for the purity of the faith gave occasion, he being awaked by learned pious friends, and by the indiscreet conduct of Rufinus favourable to errors which had taken deep root in several monasteries.

  
Baronius, (an. 400,) Noris, (De Hæres. Pelag. l. 1,) Perron, (Rep. au Roy de la Gr. Bret. c. 33,) Pagi, (an. 401, § 16,) Tillemont, (t. 12, p. 242,) and Natalis Alexander, (sæc. 4, c. 6, art. 32,) say Rufinus was excommunicated by Pope Anastasius; but their mistake is clearly confuted by Ceillier, Coutant, and Fontanini. (l. 5, c. 19, p. 420.) It is certain that St. Chromatius of Aquileia, St. Venerius of Milan, St. Petronius of Bologna, St. Gaudentius of Brescia, St. Paulinus of Nola, St. Austin, and others, always treated him with esteem, and as one in the communion of the church. In the letter of Pope Anastasius to John of Jerusalem, the mention of Rufinus’s excommunication, in some editions, is an evident interpolation, omitted by Coutant in his edition of the Decretals, and inconsistent with the rest of the epistle, in which the pope says, he leaves the translator’s intention to God, though he condemns the work, and expresses that he is much dissatisfied with the author. Rome, by a like mistake, have charged Rufinus of Aquileia with Pelagianism; but it is manifest by several circumstances that the Rufinus, who, coming from Palestine to Rome, was the first that instilled that heresy into Celestius, was another person of the same name, who is called by Marius Mercator and Palladius, a Syrian, and survived our author. (See Ceillier and Fontanini.) Tyrannius Rufinus translated several homilies of Origin, and the history of Eusebius with alterations and additions. Of the three books Of the Lives of the Fathers ascribed to Rufinus, in Rosweide, the first was certainly written by him: the second was compiled by him (not by Evagrius of Pontus) from the relation of St. Petronius of Bologna; the third is the work of a later writer; for the death of St. Arsenius, which is mentioned in it, happened thirty years after that of Rufinus. No book of this author has done him so much honour, or the church so much service, as his valuable Exposition of the Symbol or Creed, which he says tradition assures us was composed by the apostles. Rufinus took too great liberty in his translations, nor is he careful or exact in his historical works. After the death of St. Chromatius in 407, he returned to Rome. In 408, when Alaric threatened Rome, he passed with the two Melanias into Sicily, intending to go with the elder back to Jerusalem, but being overtaken by sickness, in a decrepit old age, he died in Sicily, towards the latter end of the year 410. Cardinal Noris and Dr. Cave set Rufinus’s life and writings in the most unfavourable light; Ceillier (t. 10, p. 1,) and the learned Justus Fontanini, archbishop of Ancyra, Hist. Literaria Aquileinsis, l. 5,) &c., draw a fairer portraiture of this famous man. [back]

Note 58. “Me hæreticis nunquam pepercisse, et omni egisse studio ut hostes Ecclesiæ mei quoque hostes fierent.” [back]

Note 59. A certain analogy between the Oriental languages anciently spoken in the countries near Chaldæa, makes their general study of some use for understanding the Hebrew: but even this, unless the student stands upon his guard, will be apt to bring in a foreign mixture of those languages, and lead into mistakes in the signification of several words which appear similar, yet have a different meaning or extent, as usually happens in different dialects and ages. The writings of the Rabins are of little service, and most of them of none at all. Their language, though sometimes called Hebrew, is entirely different from the ancient, being a very barbarous Chaldaic, though more pure in the paraphrase of Onkelos on the Pentateuch, which is rather a version than a paraphrase, and its style is so correct as to have some affinity with the Chaldaic in Daniel and Esdras. As to the paraphrase of Jonathan on the first prophets, as they are called by the Jews, (that is, on Josue, Judges, and Kings,) though more diffusive, is in style something a-kin to it. But the six other Targums or paraphrases that are extant, are full of childish fables, and the Chaldaic language, in their writings, is intermixed with Persian, Arabic, Greek, and Latin words: it is purest in the Targum of Jerusalem, so called because written, though in the ages of its degeneracy, in that dialect of the Chaldaic which was spoken by the Jews at Jerusalem after their return from the captivity. On the Targumim or Targums, see Morin. l. 2; Exercit. 8, and Helvicus l. de Paraphras. Chaldaic.

  The two Thalmuds, or collections of traditions, seem as old as the sixth century; are first mentioned in the law by which Justinian condemned them. St. Jerom mentions the absurd traditions or [Greek] of the Pharisees. (ep. ad Alg. and in c. 8, Isai.) These traditions containing monstrous fictions and pretended miracles about Moses, &c., were committed to writing by R. Jehuda, surnamed by the Jews, Hakkadosh or the Holy, about the sixth century, and called Mishna or Misna, that is, the second Law. This is the text. The Ghemara or Supplement, is a commentary upon it, and was added soon after. Both together are called the Thalmud, that is, the Doctrine. The Thalmud of Jerusalem is the older; but that of Babylon, compiled by the Rabbins Ase and Jese, in Persia, after the year 700, is most used, and in the greatest esteem among the Jews, the former being obscure and unintelligible. Both abound with blasphemies against Christ, and monstrous fables. For a specimen, see Sixtus Senensis, Bibl. Sanctæ, l. 2, Tit. Thalmud. p. 134. Or, in our own language, Mr. Stephelin’s Rabbinical Literature, printed at Oxford, in 1725. Nevertheless, certain rites, proverbs, and maxims in the Misna, illustrate some old Jewish customs and scriptural allusions. See Mr. Wotton’s Miscellaneous Discourses relating to the traditions and usages of the Scribes and Pharisees, London, 1718. The Caraïtes, so called from Caraï, which signifies a learned man, are a small sect of Jews in the East, mortally hated by the rest. These reject the Thalmud or traditions of the second Law. See Supart’s history of the Caraïtes, at Jena, 1701. Scaliger and the Buxtorfs pretend they are the descendants of the Sadducees; but are certainly mistaken. For the Caraïtes speak well of Spirits, &c. See Rich. Simon, (Crit. du V. Test. l. 1, c. 29,) Lamy, &c. The Thalmudists are posterior to St. Jerom; but he condemned those fictions upon which they grafted their system, and of which the famous R. Akiba, who adhered to Barchochebas in his rebellion under Adrian, (for which he suffered death,) is said to have been the chief author. See Brucker, (Hist. Critica Philos. t. 2, p. 820.)

  The Masorete doctors, who flourished at Tiberias after St. Jerom’s death, invented critical rules to preserve the Hebrew text entire; and are said to have specified the number of the verses and words contained in each book. The older Masora was composed before the invention of vowel points, and consists of marginal marks called Keri and Kerib, invented to show how certain words are to be read. The later Masora was made after the invention of the vowel points. Its rules seem entirely useless; those of the former Masora might have been of some service if the Jews had understood or given attention to them. Of the ancient Rabbinical learning nothing is extant but the Masora and the idle dreams of the Thalmud. From the sixth age no learning flourished among the Jews, till studies in the eleventh were revived by an emulation of the Saracen Mussulmans and the Christians, as Morinus, Fleury, and Brucher observe. R. Juda, surnamed Chiug, compiled the first Hebrew dictionary (which he wrote in Arabic characters) about the year 1030. R. Jona composed near the same time a good Hebrew grammar; but neither of these has been printed. A shoal of Rabbinical writers succeeded, whose works are full of idle subtilties, impious fictions and cabalistical or ridiculous mystical interpretations.

  Among all the Rabbins very few have written so as to deserve the least notice. These are chiefly Aben-Ezra (who died in 1168) and R. Moses Ben Maimon, called Maimonides, who both flourished at Cordova, but the latter (who made a famous abstract of the Thalmud) died at Grand Cairo in 1205. R. Kimchi (who lived also in the twelfth century) published a very good Hebrew grammar: and R. Elias Levita, a German, who taught Hebrew at Venice and Rome, shows himself in his works generally a good critic. R. Kimchi, and the authors of the Thalmud show at large that the Rabbins learned the signification of many words from the Arabic and other languages by very precarious and uncertain rules. See Morin (Exercit. Bibl. 6, c. 5,) and F. Honore. (Crit. t. 1, Diss. 5, p. 124.) John Forster, a learned German Protestant, says the Jewish Hebrew books and comments have brought more obscurity and error than light and truth in the study of the Hebrew text.
(in Diction. Hebraic.) See Calmet’s Diss. sur les Ecoles des Hebreux, p. 22. [back]

Note 60. See Calmet, Diss. sur la Vulgate. [back]

Note 61. Invect. 2. [back]

Note 62. Milles in Prolegom. [back]

Note 63. Diss. sur la Vulgate. [back]

Note 64. Præf. in Evangelium Quadruplex. [back]

Note 65. Hieron. Præf. in Josue. [back]

Note 66. St. Aug. de Christ. l. 2, c. 11. [back]

Note 67. St. Hier. Præf. in Evang. ad Damas. t. 1, p. 1426. St. Aug. ep. 71, ad Hieron. [back]

Note 68. St. Hier. in catal. c. 135. [back]

Note 69. Lucas Brugensis testifies that he saw in the abbey of Malmedia MS. copy of all St. Paul’s epistles in the ancient Italic version. (Annot. t. 4, par. 2, p. 32.) D. Martianay has published that version of St. Matthew’s gospel, and the epistle of St. James, besides the books of Job and Judith. Four MS. copies of all the gospels in the old Italic version have been found, one at Corbie, a second at Vercelli, (in the handwriting of St. Eusebius, bishop of that city, and martyr,) a third at Brescia, and a fourth at Verona; and have been all accurately printed together by Blanchini at Rome, in 1748, in folio. And we may hope to see the ancient Vulgate or Italic entirely restored. [back]

Note 70. It is certain that no vowel points were known in Hebrew writings in the time of St. Jerom. They were probably invented at Tiberias, about fifty years after his death, by the Jewish doctors, who fixed them as they had learned to read the bible by tradition. The Jews in their synagogues still use bibles without points. The Samaritans have none. Simon (l. 1, c. 2,) thinks the Jews learned them from the Arabs who invented such points for vowels under the caliph Omar I. to ascertain the reading of the Alcoran. The use of these vowels being so modern, they are rejected or changed by critics at discretion; and many now expunge them. See Calmet’s and Vence’s Diss. on the Vowel Points, prefixed to the French comment on Esdras. But by what rules did St. Jerom and the ancient Jews read that language? If they read the scripture by tradition, how did they read unknown writings? How did Joab understand David’s order by letter to contrive the death of Urias? Some think these six consonants supplied the place of vowels, Aleph short a, He short e, Vau u, Jod i, Cheth long e, Ain long a. Mr. Benj. Kennicot (Diss. 1,) says that the Jews, after the invention of vowel points, omitted some of those consonants in their copies of the Bible, and substituted points as equivalent to them, in order to write with more facility. And F. Giraudeau in his Praxis Linguæ Sanctæ (containing a Hebrew Lexicon like the Greek Lexicon of Schrevelius and a grammar,) printed at Rochelle 1757, adds, that where none of these vowel letters occur, o is to be understood. Thus [Hebrew] (Jer. ix. 22,) is read by St. Jerom, dabber, that is, speak, by some dabar, that is, a speech, by others deber, that is, death or pestilence; but, according to this author, is to be pronounced dobor. But, to overturn the whole system of the pronunciation of a language, and to found a new one upon mere conjecture, is as wild a project as the late mathematician’s scheme to change all the received terms in algebra and geometry. To free the Hebrew grammar from so great an encumbrance would indeed be a happy discovery, provided it could be done without a greater inconvenience. Otherwise it is better to be content to understand one another in this dead language, without aiming at a perfection which is now impossible. Who can hope now-a-days to speak Latin or Greek so correctly that his accent and language would not have seemed barbarous, and sometimes unintelligible, to Cicero or Demosthenes?

  Our ignorance of the Hebrew pronunciation appears most sensibly in the scripture poesy. Josephus, Philo, Eusebius, and St. Jerom assure us, that the versification in the Psalms, and other poetical parts, is most perfect, both in measure or feet, and in rhyme. Yet neither can be discovered by us, insomuch that Calmet with many others have fancied it consisted merely in a poetical turn of the phrases, and elevation of sentiment. See his and Fleury’s Dissertations on the Hebrew poesy, and Floridi, Diss. 17, p. 502. But the most ingenious Mr. Rob. Lowth in his Prælectiones de sacra Poesi Hebræorum, clearly shows that the Psalms and other poetical parts of the Hebrew Bible are composed in beautiful metre; which appears from the measured number of syllables, the licenses, never allowed but on such occasions, as the elision or addition of letters, and other like circumstances. To proceed from the two first historical chapters of Job to his discourse which is in verse, is no less a change than from Livy to fall into Virgil. (p. 29, 127, 169, &c.) That the study of sacred poesy was a profession among the Jews, is clear from Eccles. xliv. 5, 3 Reg. iv. 31, &c. See Mr. Lowth’s elegant work displaying at large the beauties of this most sublime and inimitable poesy, enriched with remarks entirely new, and with noble essays of some Latin translations, as that of the Ode of Isaias on the destruction of Babylon, ch. xiv. 4, p. 277, &c. A work which may be justly esteemed the richest augmentation which this branch of literature has lately received. We read also with pleasure observations on the Hebraic versification in the treatise of Robertson, On the True and Ancient method of reading the Hebrew. 
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Note 71. S. Greg. M. l. 1, hom. 10, n. 6, in Ezech. l. 20, Mor. in cap. 30, Job. cap. 32, n. 62. [back]

Note 72. S. Isidor. l. 1, de Offic. Eccl. [back]

Note 73. This was declared by the council of Trent in 1546, an authentic version; by which decree is not meant any preference to the Original Texts. See Pallavicini, (Hist. Conc. Trid.) Walton, (Proleg. 10, in Polyglot.) Bellarmin, (De Verbo Dei, l. 2, c. 11,) and Literis ad Lucam Brugens Capuæ datis 1603, and Diss. de editione Latinâ Vulgatâ, printed at Wirtzburgh in 1749, and in the new French Bible with notes and dissertations, at Paris, 1750, t. 14, p. 1. A correct edition of the Vulgate was published at Rome by order of Sixtus V. in the year 1590, the last of his pontificate: and another more correct in 1592, by order of Clement VIII.; and again with some few amendments in 1593. On the commendation of the Latin Vulgate, see the ablest Protestant critics, Lewis De Dieu, Drusius, Milles, Walton, Proleg. in Polyglot, &c. Cappell has adopted many readings of our Vulgate in places where the modern MSS. of the Hebrew were corrupt. Crit. sacra, p. 351, 371.

  How difficult an undertaking such a translation from the Hebrew is at present, appears from the miscarriages of many moderns. How faulty are Beza’s and Erasmus’s Latin versions of the New Testament! Or those of the Old by Pagninus, Arias Montanus, Luther, (whose shameful ignorance of the Hebrew language rendered him contemptible to his warmest friends,) Munster, (whose translation sticks close to the Jewish paraphrase and Rabbins,) Leo of Juda, author of the translation called Vatable’s Bible, Seb. Castalio, (whom Beza, &c. severely censured,) Luke, and his son Andrew Osiander, (who only corrected some parts of the Vulgate by the Hebrew:) lastly, that of Junius and Tremeilius, (the latter of whom was born a Jew.) This last translation is preferred by the English Protestants; but even the second edition, corrected by the authors, is not less essentially defective than the first, as Drusius, a learned Protestant critic, has invincibly demonstrated. The Latin style is vicious and affected: pronouns are often added which are not in the original, and frequently other words; and the authors often wander from the sense.

  It cannot be denied that the Hebrew text is now defective through the fault of copiers, as the ablest Rabbins acknowledge, and as appears manifest from the genealogies in Paralipomenon and several other places. The truth of this assertion is demonstrated by Mr. Kennicot in his work entitled: The present printed Hebrew Text considered, Oxf. 1759, Diss. 2, p. 222, &c. See also his Dissertation on the same subject, which appeared in 1753. He gives the history of the Hebrew text which he affirms was preserved entire until the return from the captivity, and even later, a copy of the Pentateuch having been, by the order of Moses, enclosed in a chest and kept close to the ark.

  Morin allows but five hundred years of antiquity to the famous MS. of Hillel, kept at Hamburg. Houbigant says he knew no Hebrew MSS. above six or seven hundred years old; few that exceed two or three hundred years. The oldest in France is that of the Oratorians de la rue S. Honore in Paris, to which Houbigant allows seven hundred years. According to Abbé Salier there is not any in the king’s library at Paris older than four hundred years. The Dominicans of Bologna in Italy have a copy of the Pentateuch (described by Montfaucon Diar. Ital. p. 399,) which was looked upon to have been ancient in 1308, when those religious purchased it from a Jew who pretended it was written by Esdras; this copy is supposed to be about nine hundred years old. England also possesses two valuable MSS. one of the Pentateuch, the other of the remainder of the Old Testament, of about seven hundred years old; they are in the Bodleian library. (Kennicot, Diss. 1, p. 315.) The most famous MS. of the Samaritan Pentateuch kept at Naplouse (the ancient Sichem near Mount Gerizim) is not above five hundred years old. (Kenn. Diss. 2, p. 541.) That which is seen in the Ambrosian library at Milan may be more ancient. (Montfauc. Diar. p. 11.) The Hebrew MS. of the Vatican is said to have been written in 973.

  The late Latin translation by Houbigant, the French Oratorian, of the Old Testament, from the Hebrew original, and of the Deutero-canonici, or sacred books which are not in the Hebrew canon from the Greek, is a work which does honour to our age. The beautiful elegance, energy, and perspicuity of the style cannot be sufficiently commended; a paraphrase upon it seems useless. The annotations are so concise, judicious, and useful, that a separate edition of them would be very serviceable to private students. But the author seems sometimes too bold in correcting the Hebrew text without the warrant of MSS. a liberty which is, however, tolerable in notes, with modesty and reserve, where the necessity appears evident. Some would have thought this work more valuable, is the criticism, in some points, had been more moderate; and if in some places a greater deference had been paid to the ancient authentic version.

  Grotius, Wells, and other Protestant critics have shown their judgment by their frequent recourse to the Vulgate to determine or correct the sense of the original, even in the New Testament, which is much more frequently of use in the Old: though the most authentic versions, as the Seventy for the books of the Old Testament, and the Latin Vulgate, receive great helps from the comparing of the original texts, which, notwithstanding this distance of time, remain originals, and often add great force, perspicuity, and light to the sense of the best versions. Whence the church has often strenuously recommended the study of the sacred languages. Her general councils have ordered professors of these languages to be appointed for that purpose in all universities, &c. In this St. Jerom is our model and guide. 
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Note 74. St. Jerom’s style in his Commentaries on the Scriptures is very different from that of his other works. In them he banishes all the flowers of rhetoric; on which account his discourse in these is somewhat dry, though it is pure, and joins great clearness with simplicity. This he thought best to suit the dignity and simplicity of the divine oracles. In his other writings he strove to give his style the highest polish. In them his thoughts and expressions are noble: he is always lively and clear, and adorns his discourse with a wonderful variety of surprising turns, and dexterously employs sometimes beautiful figures and sometimes logical subtilties; he often introduces some of the finest strokes of the best philosophers and classics, and curious things from some of the arts and sciences. All these parts are so exactly adapted, that they seem to be everywhere in their natural place, so that his discourse may be compared to an inlaid work, where the pieces are so artificially put together that they seem to be made for one another. But this way of writing appears somewhat too much affected, and overcharged. Neither is his style regular, says the judicious Fenelon; who, nevertheless, adds, that though it has some faults, he is a far more eloquent writer than most whose names stand foremost in the list of orators.

  Dom Martianay, a Maurist monk, well skilled in the Hebrew tongue, published the works of this father in five volumes, folio; the first volume in 1693, the last in 1704. The book, On Hebrew Names, and other critical works of St. Jerom, were extremely incorrect in all former editions, even in those of Erasmus and Marianus Victorius. This of the Benedictin monk has deserved the highest commendations of Dr. Cave and others. Yet it is not complete; and the editor, though in this work he has shown more judgment and erudition than in some smaller tracts, has not attained to the reputation of the Coutants and Mabillons. The text is still left in some places incorrect; the notes are sometimes defective. The order of the epistles is so confused that many of them can neither be readily found nor easily quoted. St. Jerom’s Chronicle is omitted; as is also the Martyrology, which is to be found in D’Achery, (Spicil. t. 4,) and which bears the name of St. Jerom in some ancient MSS. though this father was only the Latin interpreter, as Bede (Retr. in Act.) and Walfridus Strabo (de rebus Eccl. c. 28,) assure us. De Martianay compiled the Life of St. Jerom, which he inserted in the fifth tome of his works; but published it more at large in French, in 1706, in which work he has vindicated the honour of this father against the harsh expressions of Baillet, &c. See the slanders of Barbeyrac against St. Jerom and his doctrine, confuted by Ceillier, Apologie des Pères, p. 308, 311, &c.

  Villarsi, an Italian Oratorian, with the assistance of the learned Marquis Scipio Maffei, and others, gave a new edition of St. Jerom’s works, in ten volumes folio, at Verona, in 1738, with the life of this father, and many useful notes. But the liberty which, in imitation of Erasmus and some other critics, he has taken in correcting the text upon his own conjectures, without the authority of MS. copies, has much discredited his undertaking.

  Four religious Orders take the name of Hieronymites, honour St. Jerom as principal patron, and in their first institution followed austere rules, which they collected out of his epistles: but these they have since changed to adopt the complete rules of some other Order. The Hieronymites in Spain are originally a filiation of the third Order of St. Francis: they were hermits till, in 1374, they were formed into regular communities; at which time they put themselves under the rule of St. Austin. The same is followed by the hermits of St. Jerom, who compose the Congregation of Lombardy. These are possessed of the church of St. Alexis in Rome; but their general resides in their great convent of St. Peter of Ospitaletto, in the diocess of Lodi. The Congregation of the Hieronymites of Fiesoli in Tuscany profess the rule of St. Austin, with certain particular constitutions taken out of St. Jerom’s ascetical epistles. Those of St. Peter of Pisa are mendicants. See his Life, June 1. 
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Note 75. St. Hier. ep. 78, ad Paulin. p. 643. [back]

Note 76. St. Aug. De Gestis Pelag. c. 36, t. 10. [back]

Note 77. Sulp Sev. Dial. c. 4. S. Aug. ep. 82, n. 30, p. 201. [back]

Note 78. Hare, On the Difficulties which attend the Study of the Scriptures by the way of private Spirit. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.



Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). Saint Jérôme au désert, 1495,
 huile sur panneau, 23,1 X 17,4, National Gallery


Saint Jerome

St. Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus), c.347-420, was a Father of the Church and Doctor of the Church, whose great work was the translation of the Bible into Latin, the edition known as the Vulgate. He was born at Stridon on the borders of Dalmatia and Pannonia (roughly modern Slovenia & Croatia) of a well-to-do Catholic family. His parents sent him to Rome to further his intellectual interests, and there he acquired a knowledge of classical literature and was baptized at the age of 19. Shortly thereafter he journeyed to Trier in Gaul and to Aquileia in Italy, where he began to cultivate his theological interests in company with others who, like himself, were ascetically inclined.
In about 373, Jerome set out on a pilgrimage to the East. In Antioch, where he was warmly received, he continued to pursue his humanist and monastic studies. He also had a profound spiritual experience, dreaming that he was accused by Christ of being “a Ciceronian, not a Christian.” Accordingly, he determined to devote himself exclusively to the Bible and theology, although the translator Rufinus (345-410), Jerome’s close friend, suggested later that the vow was not strictly kept. Jerome moved to the desert of Chalcis, and while practicing more rigorous austerities, pursued his studies, including the learning of Hebrew. On his return to Antioch in 378 he heard Apollinaris the Younger (c.310-c.390) lecture and was admitted to the priesthood (379) by Paulinus, bishop of Antioch. In Constantinople, where he spent three years around 380, he was influenced by Gregory of Nazianzus.
When Jerome returned to Rome Pope Damasus I appointed him confidential secretary and librarian and commissioned him to begin his work of rendering the Bible into Latin. After the death (384) of Damasus, however, Jerome fell out of favor, and for a second time he decided to go to the East. He made brief visits to Antioch, Egypt, and Palestine. In 386, Jerome settled at Bethlehem in a monastery established for him by Paula, one of a group of wealthy Roman women whose spiritual advisor he had been and who remained his lifelong friend. There he began his most productive literary period, and there he remained for 34 years, until his death. From this period come his major biblical commentaries and the bulk of his work on the Latin Bible.
The writings of Jerome express a scholarship unsurpassed in the early church and helped to create the cultural tradition of the Middle Ages. He developed the use of philological and geographical material in his exegesis and recognized the scientific importance of archaeology. In his interpretation of the Bible he used both the allegorical method of the Alexandrian and the realism of the Antiochene schools. An often difficult, empassioned and hot-tempered man, Jerome made many enemies, but his correspondence with friends and enemies alike is of great interest, particularly that with Saint Augustine.
His greatest gifts were in scholarship, and he is a true founder of scientific biblical exegesis in the West.  Jerome’s greatest single accomplishment was the Vulgate. The chaos of the older Latin translation was notorious. Working from the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT, Jerome, after twenty-three years of labor, gave Latin Christianity its Bible anew. Its supremacy was reaffirmed by the Council of Trent in 1546, and it remains to this day the classical Latin Bible. He is the patron Saint of Librarians, Libraries, Archeologists, Archivists, Bible Scholars, Schoolchildren, Students Translators, and the city of Quebec, Canada.
SOURCE : http://ucatholic.com/saints/jerome/


Pinturicchio (1454–1513). Saint Jerome au désert, v.1480, 149, 8 X 106

Saint Jerome

No biography available. In the meantime, this is a story about the saint:


St. Jerome and the Lion: In Vita Divi Hieronymi (Migne. P.L., XXII, c. 209ff.) as translated by Helen Waddell in Beasts and Saints (NY: Henry Holt and Co., 1934), you will find the reason St. Jerome is generally pictured with a lion. One evening at dusk St. Jerome sat with his fellow monk in his monastery in Jerusalem listening to the lesson of the day, when a mighty lion came in limping on three paws, holding the fourth caught up. Imagine the chaos that followed as the monks tripped over one another trying to get away. But Jerome went out to meet him as one greets an incoming guest.

Of course, the lion couldn't speak, since it's not in their nature, but offered the good father his wounded paw. Jerome examined it and called his brethren to bathe it. When it was clean Jerome noticed that the paw had been pierced by thorns. After he applied a salve, the wound quickly healed.

The gentle ministrations had tamed the lion, who now went in and out of the cloister as peaceably as any domestic animal. Of this Jerome said, "Bring your minds to bear upon this, my brethren: what, I ask you, can we find for this lion to do in the way of useful and suitable work, that will not be burdensome to him, and that he can efficiently accomplish? For I believe of a surety that it was not so much for the healing of his paw that God sent him hither, since He could have cured him without us, as to show us that He is anxious to provide marvellous well for our necessity."

The brothers thought that the lion should be tasked with accompanying and protecting the donkey that carried the firewood for the monastery. And so that was the lion's charge. And thus it was for a long time; the lion would guard the donkey as he went to and fro. One day, however, the lion grew tired and fell asleep as the donkey grazed and some Egyptian oil merchants espied the untended donkey and led him away.

The lion eventually awoke and went in search of the donkey. With increasing anxiety he hunted for the donkey all day. At even fall, hopeless, he returned and stood at the monastery gate. Conscious of guilt, he no longer walked in pride as he did usually with the donkey. When Jerome and the monks saw him, they concluded his guilt grew from having allowed his savage nature to overtake his gentleness; that he had killed hte donkey. So, they refused to feed him and sent him away to finish eating his kill.

And yet there was some doubt as to whether he had committed the crime, so the monks went in search of the donkey's carcass and couldn't find it anywhere, nor any sign of violence. The monks reported to Jerome, who said, "I entreat you, brethren, that although you have suffered the loss of the ass, do not nevertheless nag at him or make him wretched. Treat him as before, and offer him his food: and let him take the donkey's place, and make a light harness for him so that he can drag home the branches that have fallen in the wood." And so it happened.

The lion regularly did his appointed task. Yet the lion still sought some understanding of the fate of his former companion. One day he climbed a hill and looked down upon the highway, where he saw men coming with laden camels, and in front of them walked a donkey. He stepped out to meet them. He saw it was his friend and began to roar, charging at the merchants without doing them harm. Frightened, they ran away as fast as they could, leaving the donkey and their packed camels behind them.

The lion led the animals back to the monastery. When the monks saw this odd sight--a donkey leading a parade with the lion in the vanguard and the camels in between--they ran to get Jerome. The saint had the gates opened then said, "Take their loads off these our guests, the camels, I mean, and the donkey, and bathe their feet and give them fodder, and wait to see what God is minded to show His servants."

When he instructions were carried out, the lion began to roam once again through the cloister as he used to do, flattening myself against the feet of each group of brothers and wagging his tail, as though to ask forgiveness for the crime that he had never committed. The brothers, full of remorse for their calumny would say to one another, "Behold our trusty shepherd whom so short a while ago we were upbraiding for a greedy ruffian, and God has deigned to send him to us with such a resounding miracle, to clear his character!"

Meanwhile, Jerome, aware of things to come, said, "Be prepared, my brethren, in all things that are requisite for refreshment: so that those who are about to be our guests may be received, as is fitting, without embarassment."

So the brothers prepared for the arrival of other guests, just as the merchants arrived a the gate. They were welcomed; however, they entered blushing, and protrated themselves at Jerome's feet, entreating forgiveness for their fault. 'Gently raising them up, he admonished them to enjoy their own with thanksgiving, but not to encroach on others' goods: and in short to live cautiously, as ever in the presence of God.' Then he offered them refreshment before they left with their camels.

The merchants offered the monks half the oil carried by their camels to fill the lamps in the church and for the needs of the monks, "because we know and are sure that it was rather to be of service to you than for our own profit that we went down into Egypt to bargain there."

Jerome responded, "This that you ask is indeed not right, for it would seem a great hardship that we who ought to have compassionon others and relieve their necessities by our own giving, should bear so heavy on you, taking your property away from you when we are not in need of it."

To which they answered, "Neither this food, nor any of our own property do we touch, unless you first command that what we ask shall be done. And so, as we have siad, do you now accept half of the oil that the camels have brought: and we pledge ourselves and our heirs to give to you and those that come after you the measure of oil which is called a hin in each succeeding year."

And so Jerome accepted. The merchants for their part accepted the refreshments and a blessing, and returned rejoicing to the own people.

Note: Waddell says that the manuscript that records this story dates no earlier than the 10th or 11th century, and may well result from a confusion between the irasible St. Jerome (Hieronymus) and the more genial St. Gerasimus, who lived a little further up the Jordan River. St. Gerasimus's lion and donkey are less sophisticated than those in this later story. Though St. Jerome is generally remembered as a curmudgeon, he did have those who loved him and saw a gentler side.



SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0930.shtml


Giovanni Bellini (1430–1516). Saint Jérôme au désert, 1505, National Gallery of Art 

PREFACE TO THE GOSPELS 1

BEGINNING OF THE PREFACE FOR THE GOSPELS OF SAINT JEROME THE PRESBYTER

To the blessed Pope Damasus, from Jerome,

You urge me to make a new work from the old, and that I might sit as a kind of judge over the versions of Scripture dispersed throughout the whole world, and that I might resolve which among such vary, and which of these they may be which truly agree with the Greek. Pious work, yet perilous presumption, to change the old and aging language of the world , to carry it back to infancy, for to judge others is to invite judging by all of them. Is there indeed any learned or unlearned man, who when he picks up the volume in his hand, and takes a single taste of it, and sees what he will have read to differ, might not instantly raise his voice, calling me a forger, proclaiming me now to be a sacrilegious man, that I might dare to add, to change, or to correct anything in the old books? Against such infamy I am consoled by two causes: that it is you, who are the highest priest, who so orders, and truth is not to be what might vary, as even now I am vindicated by the witness of slanderers. If indeed faith is administered by the Latin version, they might respond by which, for they are nearly as many as the books! If, however, truth is to be a seeking among many, why do we not now return to the Greek originals to correct those mistakes which either through faulty translators were set forth, or through confident but unskilled were wrongly revised, or through sleeping scribes either were added or were changed? Certainly, I do not discuss the Old Testament, which came from the Seventy Elders in the Greek language, changing in three steps until it arrived with us 2. Nor do I seek what Aquila, or what Symmachus may think, or why Theodotion may walk the middle of the road between old and new. This may be the true translation which the Apostles have approved. I now speak of the New Testament, which is undoubtedly Greek, except the Apostle Matthew, who had first set forth the Gospel of Christ in Hebrew letters in Judea. This (Testament) certainly differs in our language, and is led in the way of different streams; it is necessary to seek the single fountainhead. I pass over those books which are called by the name of Lucian and Hesychius, for which a few men wrongly claim authority, who anyway were not allowed to revise either in the Old Instrument after the Seventy Translators, or to pour out revisions in the New; with the Scriptures previously translated into the languages of many nations, the additions may now be shown to be false.

Therefore, this present little preface promises only the four Gospels, the order of which is Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, revised in comparison with only old Greek books. They do not disagree with many familiar Latin readings, as we have kept our pen in control, but only those in which the sense will have been seen to have changed (from the Greek) are corrected; the rest remain as they have been.

We have also copied the lists which Eusebius the bishop of Caesarea, following Ammonius of Alexandria, set out in ten numbers, as they are had in the Greek, so that if any may then wish through diligence to make known what in the Gospels may be either the same, or similar, or singular, he may learn their differences. This is great, since indeed error has sunk into our books; while concerning the same thing, one Evangelist has said more, into another they have added because they thought it inferior; or while another has differently expressed the same sense, whichever one of the four he had read first, he will revise the other to the version he values most. Whence it happened how in our time that all have been mixed; in Mark are many things of Luke, and even of Matthew; turned backwards in Matthew are many things of John and of Mark, yet in the remaining others, they are found to be correct. When, therefore, you will have read the lists which are attached below, the confusion of errors is removed, and you will know all the similar passages, and the singular ones, wherever you may turn to. In the first list, the four agree, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; in the second, three, Matthew, Mark, John; in the third, three, Matthew, Luke, John; in the fourth, three, Matthew, Mark, John; in the fifth, two, Matthew, Luke; in the sixth, two, Matthew, Mark; in the seventh, two, Matthew, John; in the eighth, two, Luke, Mark; in the ninth, two, Luke, John; in the tenth some peculiar ones are given which the others don't have. Separately in the Gospels are numbered sections of unequal length, beginning with one and increasing to the end of the books. This is written before the passage in black, and it has under it a red number, which shows to which of the ten (lists) to proceed, with the first number to be sought in the list. Therefore, when the book is open, for example, if you will wish to know of this or that chapter in which list they may be, you will immediately be shown by the lower number. Returning to the beginning (of the book) in which the different lists are brought together, and immediately finding the same lists by the title in front, by that same number which you had sought in the Evangelist, which you will find marked in the inscription, you may also view other similar passages, the numbers of which you may note there. And when you know them, you will return to the single volumes, and immediately finding the number which you will have noted before, you will learn the places in which either the same things or similar things were said.
I wish that in Christ you may be well, and that you will remember me, most blessed Pope.

END OF THE PREFACE FOR THE GOSPELS OF SAINT JEROME THE PRESBYTER

1.  Translated by Kevin P. Edgecomb, 27 July 1999, Berkeley, California.  As far as I am able to find, this is the first translation of the full letter into 
English, modern or otherwise.  


2. Hebrew > Greek > Latin.





Caravaggio (1571–1610). Saint Jérôme écrivant, 1607, 117 X 157, Valette, Kon-Katidral ta’ San Ġwann


SAINT JERÔME. Œuvres. Publiées par M. Benoît MATOUGUES, sous la Direction de M. L. Aimé-Martin,. Paris, Auguste Desrez, Imprimeur-Editeur Rue Neuve-Des-Petits-Champs, n° 50, MDCCCXXXVIII : http://remacle.org/bloodwolf/eglise/jerome/table.htm

Saint Jerome. De viris illustribus : http://www.istrianet.org/istria/illustri/jerome/works/viris-illustribus.htm