The Passionists - Compassion

Mary in Christian Tradition

how St Jerome came to be at Bethlehem

340-420
priest and doctor

feast day: September30

ST. JEROME was born in 340 in Stridon, a small town in north Italy near today's Italian-Yugoslavian border. He was given an excellent classical education by his parents and was tutored in Rome by Donatus, the famous pagan grammarian. As a result, Jerome became an expert in the Greek and Latin languages. In 360, at the age of eighteen, he was baptized in Rome by Pope Liberius. After his baptism, he traveled throughout the Roman Empire and was acquainted with many of the leading Christians of his day. He settled at Aquileia in 370 and became acquainted with St. Valerian.

da Vinci's JeromeJerome went to Antioch in 374. In a dream, he saw himself in judgment before Christ, who rebuked him for his vain pursuit of worldly wisdom. Touched deeply by the dream, Jerome withdrew into the wilderness where, beset by temptations of many kinds, he "threw himself at the feet of Jesus, watering his feet with tears of prayers and penance," as he said later. To occupy himself, he began an intense study of Hebrew under a Jewish teacher. He found this study extremely difficult, but it prepared him for one of his great life works. He was ordained by St. Paulinus and went to Constantinople about 380 to study Scripture under St. Gregory Nazianzen. When Gregory left Constantinople, Jerome went to Rome in 382.

Pope Damasus asked him to be his secretary and in this capacity Jerome began his monumental translation of the Bible from Greek into Latin; it is called the Vulgate. "Not to know the Scriptures is not to know Christ," Jerome said. At the same time, his learned commentaries on the Scriptures and his conferences and letters won him a devoted following, especially among the Christian women of Rome.

Jerome had his share of critics who resented his biting tongue and caustic comments on Roman society. Stung by their attacks on him, in 385 he left Rome for the Holy Land, where he established a number of communities near Bethlehem. There he not only continued his study of Scripture, but heatedly engaged in the controversies raging in the Church of his day. Jerome was sometimes ill-tempered and harsh in his dealings with others, yet he sought God's mercy again and again for himself and those he had injured.

When Alaric and his barbarians attacked Rome in 410, great numbers of Roman Christians fled to Palestine for safety. Jerome tried to arrange shelter for them and wrote, "I have put aside all my study to help them. Now we must translate the words of Scripture into deeds, and instead of speaking holy words we must do them." He died at Bethlehem of a long illness on September 30, 420. He is buried at St. Mary Major in Rome. St. Jerome is a Doctor of the Church.

St Jerome by Pollaiuolo
ord, show me your mercy
and make my heart glad.
I am like the man going to Jericho
wounded by robbers:
Good Samaritan, come help me.
I am like the sheep gone astray:
Good Shepherd, come seek me
and bring me home safe.
Let me dwell in your house all my days
and praise you forever. Amen.

St. Jerome

return to Early Palestinian shrines
return to text only site