St. Jerome the Irritable

St. Jerome's Cave in Bethlehem

September 30th is the liturgical commemoration of St. Jerome, the great biblical scholar, monk, and grouch extraordinaire. In fact, he’s probably eccentric enough to be considered part of Anglican patrimony.

On the study of the Hebrew language he wrote, “From the judicious precepts of Quintilian, the rich and fluent eloquence of Cicero, the graver style of Fronto, and the smoothness of Pliny, I turned to this language of hissing and broken-winded words.”

On worldly women, he railed against those who “paint their cheeks with rouge and their eyelids with antimony, whose plastered faces, too white for human beings, look like idols; and if in a moment of forgetfulness they shed a tear it makes a furrow where it rolls down the painted cheek; women to whom years do not bring the gravity of age, who load their heads with other people's hair, enamel a lost youth upon the wrinkles of age, and affect a maidenly timidity in the midst of a troop of grandchildren.”

Even the clergy of Rome didn’t get a break. He said, “All their anxiety is about their clothes…. You would take them for bridegrooms rather than for clerics; all they think about is knowing the names and houses and doings of rich ladies.”

No wonder he ended up living in a cave.

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

4 thoughts on “St. Jerome the Irritable”

  1. One in a long list of "cranky" saints, beginning with the Old Testament prophets, and probably best exemplified by John the Baptist. The flip side of this is that the surest sign of God's judgement upon us in this world would be if we were deprived of such witnesses, for it would mean that our hearts had become so hard that we were unable to hear the voice calling us to repentance.

  2. No doubt he'd be among the "holy fools" of the Western tradition – move over, Francis,this one was as "interesting" as YOU were!

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