Jerome was born in 347 AD, in Dalmatia, a province of the Roman Empire. He was sent to Rome to study. Initially, he was skeptical of Christianity, but after a religious experience he was baptized a Christian, most likely sometime in 360 AD. During a journey through Asia Minor he fell very ill, and two of his companions died. Jerome had a vision during his illness. He decided to dedicate himself to a life of penance and prayer. He withdrew into the Syrian Desert and lived as a hermit. However, he was still able to study and write. In the desert, he learned Hebrew and corresponded with Jewish scholars.
Jerome then returned to Rome and worked as a secretary for the Pope. In Rome, he surrounded himself with a group of wealthy Christians. Jerome wrote many letters at this time, which were widely read and inspired many to adopt the monastic life. They are still read to this day. Jerome was a fearless critic of abuses in the Church and the sinfulness of the Romans. He became very unpopular, and there were unfounded claims made against him.
In 385 AD Jerome left Rome for good, and decided to live the rest of his life in the Holy Land. Jerome retired to a hermit’s cell in Bethlehem. He dedicated himself to translating the Old Testament from Hebrew to Latin. The existing Latin version of the Old Testament was filled with inaccuracies. The saint’s version gave Christians a reliable version of the Old Testament for the first time.
Jerome was fearless in his criticism of those who taught heretical doctrines. His attack on heresies resulted in his monastery being attacked by heretics, who set it on fire. St. Jerome was not intimidated, and continued to condemn those he regarded as heretics, or ‘concealed serpents’, in the Church.
Jerome died near Bethlehem on September 30th, 420. His remains were later returned to Rome.
Saint Jerome performed several miracles. On one occasion, he asked his followers to lay his cloak on three dead men. They covered the men with the cloak, and after a few minutes removed it. To the astonishment of all, the three men were restored to life. On another occasion, an orthodox Christian was about to be beheaded by a heretical bishop. As the sword was about to fall, St. Jerome suddenly appeared and stopped the blade from falling upon the innocent victim.
St. Jerome urged people to follow the teachings of Christ in their everyday lives:
“Why don’t you practice what you preach?”
He gave good advice on how to live a moral and Christian life:
“Be ever engaged, so that the devil may always find you occupied.”
St Jerome’s great contribution to theology led to him being elevated to the status of a Doctor of the Church.