The Patron Saint of Grumpy Old Men

Saint Jerome should be the patron saint of grumpy old men.

Born in the Roman province of Dalmatia in modern Slovenia, he studied in Rome starting in about the year 360. During a journey to Syria in 373, he fell ill and had a vision that caused him to devote the rest of his long life to the service of God and the Church.

He became a hermit, and in about 379 the Bishop of Antioch ordained him a priest, an honour he accepted with some hesitation. From there he went to Constantinople to study scripture under Saint Gregory Nazianzen.

A few years later we find him back in Rome, serving as the secretary of Pope Damasus I. After the Pope’s death in late 384, Jerome returned to Antioch and toured through the Holy Land and Egypt, eventually settling in Bethlehem, where he lived out the rest of his life, dying on this day in the year 420 at the age of 73.

Jerome was a great scholar. He became the first man to translate basically the entirety of the Bible from its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into Latin. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible remains one of the most important books in western civilization.

For over a thousand years it was the definitive edition of the Bible, and it was the primary source text for most Biblical translations clear into the 20th Century.

Jerome also wrote numerous scriptural commentaries and historical works. In fact, Jerome is the second most voluminous writer (after St. Augustine) among the Church Fathers. He is the patron saint of translators, librarians, and encyclopedists.

However, it is in his many letters that Saint Jerome shines as the patron of grumpy old men.

Some of the letters he wrote to and about Saint Ambrose of Milan, for instance, would make your toes curl, even going so far as to accuse him of plagarism!

You observe how (Jerome) treats Ambrose… [H]e calls him a jackdaw who decks himself in other birds’ showy feathers; and then he rends him with his foul abuse, and declares that there is nothing manly in (him).

(Apology 2,25, by Rufinus)

Seems to me, he’d be right at home on the internet.

Today’s second reading in the Office of Readings, however, shows Jerome’s real core. It’s from his commentary on Isaiah, and it demonstrates the heart of his “take no prisoners” attitude. Here’s a taste:

[I]f, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

Perhaps “grumpy” is not quite right. Maybe the phrase I’m looking for is “righteous indignation”.