Posted by: fvbcdm | September 30, 2014

Feast of Saint Jerome (30 September 2014)       

As I come to my computer this morning to send the daily message, I find that I would like to send three or four messages. Today is the feast of Saint Jerome, about whom I’ll speak in a minute. Tomorrow is that of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus, “the Little Flower” as she is called, the most recently proclaimed Doctor of the Church who died at the ripe old age of 24. Very young to be a Doctor.  And then this weekend’s Sunday Mass has to do with the importance of our producing fruit like a copiously bearing grape vine and not just producing a bunch of leaves which are of no use to anyone.

Let’s talk about Saint Jerome. He was a brilliant young man who lived in the 300s and 400s, and became the secretary of the Pope, Saint Damasus. We might say a bit facetiously that he is an example of the danger of coming to the attention of a person in high authority if you have talents and qualifications. The pope knew that one of the great needs of the Church at that time was a good Latin edition of the Bible, which was written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New).  So Pope Saint Damasus asked Jerome to undertake the translation of the entire Bible into Latin. Jerome was none too happy with this herculean task, but he was obedient, and he spent the rest of his life first learning Hebrew and then doing all that translating.

I’ve always loved his complaint about the primitive and defective Hebrew language in contrast with the beauty and elegance of Latin and Greek with which he was familiar. He grumbled that Hebrew was “all hissing and gasping!” And if you listen to any of the Semitic languages being spoken, you’ll know what he meant. One of the greatest gifts that Saint Jerome left to us was his clear understanding of the role of the Bible in the life of Christianity. He knew perfectly well what those outside the Church do not know today: that the Bible is extremely important to us BECAUSE the Church says that it is, and proposes it to us as our spiritual guide. You see, I live here in east Texas in what is called “the Bible belt.” That expression comes from the fact that in most of the south of our country, the Christians are Protestants. And the basic belief of all Protestantism is that the Bible is the fundamental and essential source of our beliefs.  But you see, that is not true.  Saint Jerome said very correctly that he would not believe a word of the Bible if the Church did not compel him to do so by her divine authority.

Christ founded a Church; he did not write a thing, except once when he doodled in the dust on the temple floor, and we don’t know what he wrote on that occasion. Nor did he command anyone to write anything. He founded his church, and told his apostles to go and teach all nations. For the first 25 years or so of the existence and operation of the Church, there was no New Testament at all. Only gradually did it come into being. But there was the Church, the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of Baptism and the other Sacraments, and the growth of the Church—the Catholic Church. It was the Church that gathered together the books of the Old Testament and the New which she considered God’s inspired word, and proposed them to her members for their salvation. It is the Church, not the Bible, which is the basis of Christian faith. This is proven sadly by the fact that those Christians outside the Church cannot agree on what the Bible means, and consequently have divided and divided again until we have hundreds of religious bodies claiming to be Christian, yet disagreeing with one another, since they have no living authority to teach with the voice of Jesus. We have that in the person of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Saint Jerome knew that; we know that today, and that will be true until the end of time. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

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