Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Today's saint could well have been described in the words of today's first reading from Job, "a man of strife and contention." Poor Jerome! His character just didn't fit what we would consider the "saintly" model. One Pope is even said to have commented (referring to Jerome's meditation on mortality, symbolized in a skull among his books), "Oh, Jerome, if it weren't for that skull, I'd un-canonize you!"
In some ways, perhaps, Jerome was born out of his time. He was by nature an anchorite, but was called (even by the Pope!) to be a teacher, spiritual director and scholar. Amazingly, the grimy ascetic, who grumbled publicly against Augustine, had a devoted group of women disciples. They must have recognized something in the crusty priest with his tomes in Hebrew and Greek (and that skull!)... And the Church, too, recognizes something in Jerome. Sanctity isn't the same thing as sweetness. Perhaps it was the case with Jerome that, as St. Gertrude later wrote about her own "crusty" superior, the Lord allowed a person of immense virtue to retain an ugly character trait as a constant call to humility.

1 comment:

Fred said...

Alas, the constant call to humanity...none of us is completely good but from that fact comes some of those wonderful moments of living in community...and getting up every morning and choosing to do it all over again. The whole experience might be entirely different, and maybe less satisfactory, were we all saints. So be it!
Father Fred, CMF