Wednesday, September 30, 2015

St. Jerome and the flaws of Saints

File:El Greco - San Jerónimo - Google Art Project.jpg
El Greco: St. Jerome in the Desert. Wikimedia Commons

Today is the memorial of St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church.

The second reading in the Office of Readings today reveals this saint's great love for Sacred Scripture. You can't read this and not find yourself making half-formed resolutions to read the bible more often, or in a more in-depth way than you are already doing.

My upcoming book includes an essay titled "You're Canonizing Him?" It discusses the controversies  over some recent beatifications and canonizations. Various members of the chattering class--both liberal and conservative--voiced objections when several 20th century popes were accorded these honors. Believe it or not, even Mother Teresa was seen as an imperfect role model by some of these commentators.

The difficulty is that in our modern age, journalism plus hi-tech communication brings us every smile, frown, step and mis-step, success and failure of prominent people. We don't have this kind of data on the saints of old, so we tend to imagine that they were perfect. We probably have to remind ourselves that they didn't walk around day and night. with their eyes cast always heavenward, carrying a lily in one hand and a crucifix in the other.

But of course these saints had their flaws.  And I don't refer to pre-conversion lives of sin, left behind forever after grace captured their souls (e.g. St. Augustine). I refer to faults they struggled with while living the holy lives that we admire.

If St. Jerome were up for canonization today, the usual suspects would be having the vapors,  passing the smelling salts, and in between swoons of horror would be burning up Facebook and Twitter to make sure we knew what a temperamental, often nasty man Jerome could be. His statements of apparent  professional jealousy towards Sts. Ambrose and Augustine would be repeated on endless loop. (Leaving out in their tirades, Jerome's deep awareness of his faults as evidenced by a life of penance that the chatterers would similarly not understand.)

All missing the point, of course, that all of us are sinners, even saints. But the saints are the ones who show us how to repent, and whose joy in forgiveness of their very real faults spurs them to great deeds.


  1. Tell us more about your upcoming book, please.

  2. Tell us more about your upcoming book, please.

    1. It hasn't got a thing to do with the Liturgy of the Hours this time. I'll be plugging it when the publication time gets closer.

  3. Daria...a question I should know the answer to, but wanted to check.

    Today for instance, the Feast of St. Theresa of Lisieux, has Proper of Saints section that I know supersedes Commons, Psalter and Proper of the Seasons text. But for Morning Prayer I used the Commons of Virgins instead of the Common for Doctor (my choice, I realize). The Commons for Virgins has antiphons for the Psalmody but no specifc Psalms in the Commons, but says to use Sunday Week I psalms and canticle. The St. Joseph Guide says use the Psalms for Week II Thursday. So I used the Wk II problem so far.
    The Commons for Virgins has Intercessions, but so does Wk II Thursday Morning Prayer. I followed the Psalter intercessions. Should I have deferred to the Common of Virgins Intercessions?
    Then tonight for Evening Prayer, the Common of Virgins has both antiphons and psalms/canticle, yet the St. Joseph Guide for EP says use Psalter Wk II Thursday. Should I defer to the Common of Virgins to override the psalms choice, or does it matter if I use Com of Vir or Psalter psalms/canticle?

    I realize that for 80% of lay people it is probably advised to just pray something. That to try and make a good effort is admirable, but I also want to get it right and pray what the Church universal is praying (Despite unique rules and traditions in many religious communities.)

    1. That is a good question and one that gets asked here regularly. If you have the one volume Christian Prayer breviary there's a good chart that tells you what to do on memorials, feasts, etc. on page 37. (at least it's 37 in my edition). But I"ll tell you here too. For St. Therese (or any memorial) you use the current weekday psalter for the psalmody. After that it is your choice whether to continue with the current weekday OR to use the appropriate common, and of course, substituting any elements that appear in the Proper of Saints for that particular memorial. Either choice is valid. Now, if St. Therese is a patron of your diocese, or you go to a St. Therese parish, or you are a third order Carmelite, you would celebrate her day as a feast, and that would mean Sunday week I for the psalms of Morning Prayer. So, in the end, although the Church Universal is honoring St. Therese today, there are different variations and options put into use, and there is more than one way to get it right.