The Sunday liturgy takes precedence over the Memorial of St. Jerome who is worth recalling today since he devoted his entire life to the study of Holy Scripture. He translated the Bible from the original languages into Latin so that it could be accessible to everyone in his culture in an as accurate a form as was humanly possible. He wrote commentaries on the Books of the Bible that are still read today and raised questions about the literal meaning of the text that exegetes still wrestle with. St. Jerome was a complicated person with a choleric temperament and an unfailing sense of his own intellectual superiority; all the same, his reasoning could be simplistic and he could be sycophantic in the interest of a career. He had a wicked sense of humor, a finely tuned irony and his letters to the great and famous of his day contained many a barbed “compliment”. His Latin style, too artificial for our tastes, set a standard of erudition for the next millennium of Latin writing. For all his shortcomings and all his worldly interests (he once dreamt that Christ accused him of being a “Ciceronian” rather than a Christian) he was canonized a saint, one of the great Latin Doctors of the Church.
We might say of St. Jerome what John Henry Newman said of Cyril of Alexandria ( mid-300’s to 444). Newman was shocked by the personal animosity and vindictiveness displayed by Cyril. He could recognize St. Cyril’s contribution, defending the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, true God and true man and Mary as the Mother of God, the God-bearer. Certainly he was a great champion of orthodoxy, raised to lead the Church. Yet he could also be a rather nasty fellow at times. Cardinal Newman said, in effect, “I may believe that Cyril of Alexandria is a saint in 1874 but I do not have to believe that he was a saint in 434.”
St. Jerome had one redeeming quality that we lack evidence for in the case of Cyril of Alexandria: Jerome repented loudly and at great length to his Lord and God. He acknowledged his faults and great personal flaws. This is what he has to offer all of us. If we but persevere and do not despair, we can be saved. God cannot save only those who turn their backs on him and cannot admit that they are wrong. But God is there, waiting, inviting them to turn around so he can shower his mercy on them. We have the words of scripture to assure us, words that St. Jerome made available to the people of his time. He gives us the example of loving and trusting the Word of God and, for all our faults, turning back to God.
from a Chapter Talk by Abbot Robert Barnes