A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

A Feisty Saint

Posted on: September 26, 2013

Sometimes my tongue is too sharp and I resort to sarcasm. And, as a parent, sometimes I’m too quick to nag or lecture. That’s part of the reason I wrote my May 2nd post, “Building Up,” where I quoted Proverbs 18:21*: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

I’m not alone in my struggle to choose my words more carefully, as a look at the prayer in Sirach 22:27 shows: “O that a guard were set over my mouth, and a seal of prudence upon my lips, that it may keep me from falling, so that my tongue may not destroy me!”

But the story of St. Jerome offers us hope.

Long before I became a Catholic, I learned a bit about St. Jerome. While I was studying to become a translator, one of my courses dealt with translation theory and touched on St. Jerome’s Bible translation work. And during my studies, we officially observed the first International Translation Day. It falls on September 30th, the feast day of St. Jerome, who is the patron saint of translators.

To me, the word “saint” suggests someone much holier than the average person. But as Bert Ghezzi wrote in his introduction to Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey With Our Spiritual Companions, “Observing the saints more closely reveals that they were ordinary people just like us.”

St. Jerome’s biography in Voices of the Saints notes that, along with such saints as Brother André Bessette and Thomas Becket, he is listed under the theme of “Feisty Saints.” In fact, “Jerome’s sharp tongue and curmudgeonly disposition made him many enemies. His nastiness and broken relationships marred his reputation.”

Though not known for being “goldenmouthed” like St. John Chrysostom or having the gift of preaching like St. Anthony of Padua, St. Jerome had a role to play in spreading the faith. He spent decades working to produce an accurate Latin Bible, Voices of the Saints tells us, and “His edition of Scripture, called the Vulgate, for fifteen centuries was the benchmark translation of the Bible in the western church.”

Just as God used St. Jerome in Bible translation and revision despite his “feistiness,” so he can use our talents—and draw out talents we didn’t know we had—to accomplish his purposes in spite of our character flaws.

Having flaws makes us human, but it doesn’t make us useless to God. And that should give us hope.

(*Scripture quotes are taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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