Wednesday, September 30, 2015

St. Jerome - September 1

‘San Girolamo nello studio’ (1480)
by Domenico Ghirlandaio

St. Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus in Latin; San Girolamo in Italian) was an Italian saint, one of the great Latin Fathers of the Church, one of the original four Doctors of the Church, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, and the author of numerous biblical commentaries, treatises, biographies and epistles. As one of the most prominent and prolific early Christian writers of the Western world, his popularity and influence is matched only by St. Augustine.

St. Jerome was a Roman, of Latin background and culture, born in 347 AD, in the city of Stridon (Strido in Latin), which was located on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia, near the Roman cities of Aquileia and Emona (modern Ljubljana; today the capital of Slovenia, then the easternmost city of Italy). It is most commonly accepted that Stridon was located on the site of the current village of Stridone (also called Sdregna) in Istria, which was then part of Italy, but today is part of Croatia. St. Jerome was born into a wealthy family which owned both land and slaves—most characteristic of a family descended from Roman colonists. His father was Eusebius and his brother was Paulinianus; the names of his mother and sister are unknown. The family was Christian.

St. Jerome was educated in Rome where he was taught by Aelius Donatus and baptized by Pope Liberius. He lived for a few years in Augusta Treverorum (Trier) where he met the exiled St. Athanasius. He then spent time in Aquileia as an ascetic before retiring to the desert of Chalcis where he lived a rigorous life as a hermit. He then went to Antioch where he was ordained a priest by Paulinus, bishop of Antioch. Next he went to Constantinople and studied Greek under St. Gregory of Nazianzus. He returned to Rome in 382 and became the secretary of Pope Damasus I. Here he became the spiritual father of a group of ascetic virgins and widows that included St. Marcella, St. Paula and St. Eustochium Julia.

St. Jerome was regarded as the most likely candidate to succeed Pope Damasus I as bishop of Rome, however his election was blocked by the Roman curia on the ground that they considered him responsible for the death of Blaesilla, a noble Roman woman and daughter of St. Paula to whom St. Jerome had given spiritual guidance. In 384 Jerome was forced to leave Rome. He sailed to Bethlehem where he founded a monastery and lived as a monk for the remainder of his life. He died in Bethlehem on September 30, 420 AD.

Slavic and Albanian misappropriation of St. Jerome

It is not uncommon for many Slavs today (particularly Croats, Slovenes and Serbs) to claim that St. Jerome was Slavic, despite the fact that St. Jerome lived and died centuries before the Slavs first arrived in Istria, Dalmatia and the Balkans. Many Albanians, in a similar attempt to appropriate historical figures that do not belong to them, likewise claim St. Jerome as their own. To read more about this, see the article: St. Jerome and Slavic Myth-Making (Revisionism)