A Misspent Youth
Before he became known as St. Jerome, he was named Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus. It was said that Jerome was born around 342 in Stridon, a part of Dalmatia. He was born to a rich but pagan family.
He was educated by Aelius Donatus, a famous Roman grammarian in his time. The young Jerome learned from him Latin and Greek. Not much is known about Jerome’s childhood other than his parents were probably well-to-do. However, despite the efforts to raise him properly, Jerome lived a wild and misspent youth.
Around the age of 12 or so, Jerome traveled to Rome and studied grammar, rhetoric and philosophy. He may have considered a career in law because of his training in rhetoric. However, Jerome fell into a life of misbehavior. While he was not studying, he pursued pleasure.
Living in Solitude
Fortunately, Jerome had Bonosus, his companion, who was a Christian influence. Jerome was persuaded by his influence to become a Christian and convert his ways for the better. Around the year 366, Jerome was baptized by Pope Liberius.
From then on, Jerome became more interested in the study of theology. Since he began his study of theology, he had a true conversion and saw the faith as integral to his life. In 370, he traveled to a monastery in Aquileia. There, he developed his skills as a translator which he developed during his visits in the catacombs, translating the inscriptions on the tombs.
After his stay in Aquileia, Jerome traveled to Gaul where he started to translate books for his personal use and to be collected for his personal library. After this, he returned to Aquileia in 373. After an argument with his companion Bonosus, the two decided to part ways. Jerome traveled eastward and reached Antioch in 374 and became a monk there.
Needing isolation for his study of Scriptures, Jerome lived for four years as a hermit in the Syrian deserts. After this, conflicts started within the Church at Antioch. He was summoned by the Church officials there, as well as Pope Damasus, and they wanted him to be ordained. He did not want to become a priest, preferring instead to be a hermit or a monk. However, he offered them certain conditions like he would not be expected to serve in any ministry and that he would still pursue his monastic life. Subsequently, he was ordained.
Translating the Scriptures
Jerome traveled to Constantinople and studied under the great theologian St. Gregory of Nazianzus. When St. Gregory left in 382, Jerome traveled to Rome for a council of the Church. He met Pope Damasus and made him his secretary. While he was serving as secretary, Jerome promoted the ascetic way of life to everyone around him.
After Pope Damasus died in 384, Jerome became a subject of criticism and controversy. Many prominent pagans and even fellow Christians attacked him with vicious rumors. Eventually, he decided to leave Rome and arrived in Antioch in 386. There, he remained in solitude and continued his work. After a while, Jerome and a group of followers traveled to the Holy Land and had a monastery built in Bethlehem which included dormitories for women. He spent the last years of his life there.
Jerome’s most famous work was his translation of the Bible. He translated most of the Old Testament from Hebrew and some from Greek. He also wrote scriptural commentaries, biographies, a history of writers and corresponded greatly. He also held conferences, taught the young and preached. Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was buried under the Church of the Nativity. His remains were later transferred to Rome. His feast day is September 30.
Five Interesting Facts About St. Jerome
- St. Jerome is the patron saint of archaeologists, Biblical scholars, librarians, students and translators.
- In Christian art, St. Jerome is often depicted with a lion beside him. A story recounts that while he was in solitude in the Syrian deserts, Jerome was reported to have drawn a thorn from a lion’s paw. The lion stayed loyally at his side for years.
- Because of his wayward life, even though he was not a Christian that time, St. Jerome would visit the catacombs in Rome every Sunday and imagined himself in hell. This was to alleviate his feelings of guilt after he sinned.
- St. Jerome was a hot-tempered man. He had many people he argued with, one of whom was St. Augustine of Hippo. Eventually, they restored their relationship and turned out to correspond as friends and colleagues.
- One of the rumors hurled to St. Jerome was that he was having an inappropriate affair with a widow named Paula who was one of his students in asceticism. St. Jerome provided counseling and instruction to her and became a lifelong friend and follower.
Prayer to St. Jerome
O God, who gave the Priest Saint Jeromea living and tender love for Sacred Scripture,grant that your peoplemay be ever more fruitfully nourished by your Wordand find in it the fount of life.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.