Thursday, September 30, 2021

Jerome of Stridon

 Today was the feast of St. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, Doctor of the Church; in English we refer to him as St. Jerome. Born in the village of Stridon, in Dalmatia, he was in his early life what would today be called a 'cultural Christian'; his family was Christian, but his parents never baptized him; he himself had mostly Christian friends, and he occasionally participate in things like visiting the tombs of the saints when they were doing so, but he himself was skeptical of Christian doctrine as a teenager. For reasons we don't quite know, this changed was in about 18; at that time he asked to be baptized, and shortly afterward decided to become a monk. He spent part of his life as an adviser for Pope Damasus; a curmudgeon from early on, he was very popular with Christian ladies seeking advice because he would he tell them exactly what he thought. This eventually got him into trouble, since rumors developed that he was having an improper relationship with a widow and that he caused the death of a young woman by encouraging her to engage in excessive ascetic practices. He left for Syria. There he spent his time doing his most important translation and commentary work. Not that it was always quiet; a polemicist by nature, at one point he so angered the local Pelagians that they broke into the monastery where he was staying and burned it down. As someone with more than a streak of acidically sarcastic cynicism myself, I take great comfort in the life of St. Jerome, the patron saint for everyone who, looking at things piously done and said by believers and nonbelievers alike, sometimes just can't help blurting out, "That's obviously idiotic!"

From his Commentary on Matthew

13.3 And he spoke many things to them in parables, saying. The crowd is not of a single opinion; rather, there are different intentions in each person. This is why he speaks to them in many parables, that they ma receive the different teachings in accordance with their various motivations. Also to be noted is that he spoke many things, but not all things, to them in parables. For if he had spoken everything in parables, the people would have gone away without profit. Thus he intermingles clear things with obscure things, so that by means of the things that they do understand, they might be challenged to the knowledge of those things which they do not understand.

[St. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, Scheck, tr., The Catholic University of America Press (Washington, DC: 2008) p. 152.]