Feast Day: September 30
An enthusiastic college student who enjoyed visiting “the tombs of the martyrs and apostles” in the catacombs with his friends, Eusebius Hieronumus Sophronius (“Jerome”) was a brilliant student who loved to travel.
While his energetic personality appealed to many people, he also had a notably confrontational side that turned others away. He became a monk, but after he became gravely ill in Antioch and had a vision of Christ, he resolved himself to the desert of Chalcis, southeast of antioch to deepen his spirituality.
Residing “in the remotest part of the wild and stony desert, burnt by the head of the sun which is so scorching that it frightens even the monks who spend their lives there,” he frequently experienced heat induced hallucinations of beautiful women dancing. In order to remove his mind from temptations of the flesh, he threw himself into new studies.
Eventually he returned to Rome and spent time in Constantinople, becoming a famous scholar. Pope Damasus asked him to be his secretary and he obliged, writing a number of acclaimed bible commentaries. He also became the spiritual director of group of Roman noblewomen who were living a semi-monastic life, including Sr. Marcell, St. Fabiola, St. Paula, and St. Eustochium.
Many people respected his integrity and accomplished learning, but others despised his outspokenness and sarcasm. When high society attacked St. Blesilla for turning away from the upper class she belonged too, Jerome’s sharp and witty defense of her actions stung the attackers he mocked, “those who paint their cheeks with rouge and their eyelids with antimony; whose plastered faces, too white to be human, look like idols, and if they forget and shed a tear it makes a furrow as it rolls down the cheek; who enamel a lost youth on the wrinkles of age…”
Clergy who concerned themselves with matters of materialism and prestige weren’t safe from him either: “The only thing they worry about is their clothes- you would think they were bridgegrooms rather than clerics;” Nor was anyone who stirred offense in him, including one man about which he remarked “If he would conceal his nose and keep his mouth shut, he might be taken for both handsome and learned.”
Through the rest of his life he would jump into scholarly controversy and continue his writings, only being interrupted by aiding refugees fleeing the sack of Rome in 410.
He passed away peacefully in Bethlehem ten years later, and his translation of the Bible (known as the vulgate) would become the Catholic bible used for the next 1500 years.