Saturday, September 30, 2006

St. Jerome

Today is the feast of St. Jerome, principally known for his translation of the Bible into Latin from Greek. Also a master controversialist, with an acerbic tongue. One of his most famous quotes is in today's Office of Readings, from his commentary on Isaiah:
I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of Gods, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
There's tons of links at Amy's of course. Catholic Exchange has this neat article suggesting that Jerome was a proto-feminist of sorts.
One particular dispute that Jerome caused is what some have called “The Ancient Christian Feminist Controversy,” or, “Jerome’s Defense of the Feminine Mind.” The wrangle began when a number of monks noticed that their more famous and intelligent contemporary was spending much of his time writing to his lady friends. As if this breach in the monastic habit were not enough, Jerome even had the gall to teach them — and what is more, he taught them about Holy Scripture! This infamous trinity of vices caused many of them to write condemnatory letters to Jerome in Bethlehem as well as to spit every time his name was mentioned.

The monks’ grounds for disapproval were based on two things: both, in modern terminology, were a question of a woman’s abilities and a woman’s rights. A woman, they said, has no right to be taught anything by a man, especially a monk. Further, a woman has no need to be taught, especially something as holy as Scripture, because she cannot learn. Knowing how false and destructive these two claims could be, Jerome took up his pen like a sword and responded to his opponents as only a proto-feminist could.

And here's a poetic gem to remember this saintly curmudgeon: [Lifted from Happy Catholic]:
The Thunderer

God’s angry man, His crotchety scholar
Was Saint Jerome,
The great name-caller
Who cared not a dime
For the laws of Libel
And in his spare time
Translated the Bible.
Quick to disparage
All joys but learning
Jerome thought marriage
Better than burning;
But didn’t like woman’s
Painted cheeks;
Didn’t like Romans,
Didn’t like Greeks,
Hated Pagans
For their Pagan ways,
Yet doted on Cicero all of his days.

A born reformer, cross and gifted,
He scolded mankind
Sterner than Swift did;
Worked to save
The world from the heathen;
Fled to a cave
For peace to breathe in,
Promptly wherewith
For miles around
He filled the air with
Fury and sound.
In a mighty prose
For Almighty ends,
He thrust at his foes,
Quarreled with his friends,
And served his Master,
Though with complaint.
He wasn’t a plaster sort of a saint.

But he swelled men’s minds
With a Christian leaven.
It takes all kinds
To make a heaven.
It really is better appreciated read aloud. Here's the link to the audio of Mike Aquilina reading it aloud. (Last link at the bottom of the page.)

As for me, I ask for his intercessions especially that the Word of God might become better known among the faithful today, and various initiatives that seek to achieve this goal (such as EC!) might be successful.
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