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Saint Jerome

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Lived c 341 - 420
Rank and group: Confessor, Doctor
Feast day: September 30
Patron saint: Librarians, translators
Attributes: Lion, owl, cardinal's hat, study
Status: Roman Martyrology

Saint Jerome was born at Stridonium in Dalmatia as Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius. He studied in Rome, focusing on the classic for which he developed a lifelong passion. He then traveled extensively in Italy and Gaul, then went to Palestine to live as a hermit. He is often depicted as a hermit afflicted by monsters, the horrible hallucinations which descended on him as he prayed in the desert. After his time in Palestine, he returned to Rome where he was ordained to the priesthood, joined the Roman clergy and acted as secretary to the pope. Despite being a great scholar, he was irascible and wound up on bad terms with those surrounding him. He returned to Palestine and settled in Bethlehem. While in Rome he had so impressed the widow Saint Paula by helping her understand Christ, that she, her adult daughter and some friends followed him and set up a convent there. He spent the rest of his life translating and commenting upon the Bible, and in art he is usually shown in the midst of translation. He became the most learned Biblical scholar of his time, and the respect which was thus shown to him made him only more hostile to any opposition to his way of thinking. However, he was able to recognize the rigidity of his own personality and shortness of his temper and maintained a degree of humility. He died at Bethlehem, is officially venerated as a Doctor of the Church, and is still considered the highest ever biblical scholar.

Thorn in the Lion's Paw

As Saint Jerome was tamed by the love of God, so did he according to legend tame a lion. Jerome diagnosed the ferocious beast as having a thorn in its paw, so he fearlessly (as always) approached the lion and plucked out the thorn. The lion was thenceforth the lasting friend and admirer of Jerome, and depictions of him often include the placid lion by his side as a tender companion.