Today we celebrate the feast of St. Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church. St. Jerome is best known for his work in translating the Bible into Latin. The Church considers him the greatest of all of the Doctors in understanding and teaching the Word of God.
Born in 347 in Dalmatia (present day Croatia) to a pagan family, he converted and was eventually baptized in 365, which is when he began to study theology. Desiring an ascetic life, he sought refuge as a hermit in the Syrian desert near Antioch. In time, he was ordained a bishop and became secretary to Pope Damasus I who asked Jerome to make a revision of the current Latin New Testament and of the Psalms.
Having lived in the shadows of the ancient world, understanding its culture, and accessing both Jewish and Greek scholars, Jerome first revised the Latin New Testament and the Psalms. He next ventured into translating the Old Testament directly from Hebrew, using it as the primary source, rather than the Greek. The only parts of the Latin Bible, called the Vulgate, which he did not translate are Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, Baruch, and the first and second Maccabees. The Council of Trent declared St. Jerome’s Vulgate to be the authentic and authoritative Latin text of the Catholic Church, preferring translation from the Hebrew as the best source.
The number of years varies, but I’ve seen it written that it took him up to 30 years to complete his work. Can you imagine working on a project for 30 years! What fortitude and perseverance! What brilliance, that 1700 years later, we still use his text! What a man of prayer that he could hear the voice of God in his work! Oh, that we could share in those virtues.
So today, let us pray in thanksgiving for St. Jerome, for the Bible, and for a greater devotion to the Word of God. Let us pray, too, that we and those we love will grow in fortitude and perseverance in bringing the work of God to fulfillment in our lives.
St. Jerome, pray for us! Anne