Uncle Eddy's E-mails -- September 30
Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (entered heaven in 420)
Your last note brings little comfort to your imprisoned uncle. Your study of theology ought to deepen your knowledge of the Bible, not poison it. If you professors are treating the Bible just like any other book, as you say they are, they are doing wrong. The Bible is not like any other book. Well, maybe I should say it’s not JUST like any other book. It was written by real human authors, who used their own writing style and imagination and wits, but it was written by them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is a privileged fount of God’s own Revelation! St Thomas Aquinas used to read the Gospels on his knees. That’s how these fancy professors ought to be reading their Bible. After all, there is a reason why the Church tells us that Sacred Scripture is the “soul of theology”. To make sure your theology doesn’t die for lack of a soul, therefore, you should take a lesson from today’s saint.
In addition to being one of the greatest writers of all time, an accomplished Greek and Latin scholar, a secretary to Popes and a valiant defender of the true faith against all heretical comers (and there were a lot of them back in the fourth and fifth centuries), St Jerome was an expert in the spiritual life, a founder of monasteries, and the most brilliant Scripture commentator the Church has ever had.
Jerome was born in northern Croatia (near northeastern Italy), and received an excellent education under the direction of his Christian parents. He was sent to Rome for some finishing touches, and there he became a true master of Latin and Greek rhetoric and literature. After he had begun to make a name for himself as a scholar did his Christian faith really take hold of his heart. At that point, he decided to travel to the Holy Land, where he joined the desert monks in northeastern Palestine, living in seclusion, prayer, fasting, and penance for four consecutive years. During that period he discovered and struggled perseveringly against the vanity and self-love that he had been cultivating for so long. To resist the many temptations the devil threw at him in those years he occupied himself with constructive and exacting labor: learning Hebrew. And we have all benefited from it. St Jerome was later entrusted by the Pope with compiling what became the definitive translation of the Bible. Because he mastered Hebrew as well as Greek and Latin, he was able to compare the many and varying versions of the manuscripts that were circulating at the time and give us what has become known as “the Vulgate,” the official Catholic Bible.
Ever since, the Church has set up Jerome’s love for the Bible as a model for all Christians. God speaks in a unique way through the Scriptures. Here’s how Jerome himself explains it: “I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: ‘Search the Scriptures,’ and ‘Seek and you shall find’. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: ‘You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God.’ For if, 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.”
So debunking Scripture would be tantamount to debunking Christ. Maybe you can’t convert all your professors, but you can at least make sure they don’t de-convert you. That would take a load off your worried uncle’s shoulders.
With devoted trepidation, Uncle Eddy
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