The church celebrates the saints not just because of what they did long ago, but because their example continues to be relevant for our lives today. Even if they lived 2,000 years ago, the gift of faith is timeless, and so is friendship with Jesus.
Take St. Jerome. While he died 1,600 years ago this month, he continues to affect our everyday lives — whether we know it or not.
Jerome lived in a society that needed a new language of faith. Most people in his area spoke a common form of Latin, whereas the predominant language of faith, especially the Scriptures, was still Greek.
Inspired by this need, Jerome accepted a mandate from Pope Damasus I to translate the Scriptures into the language of the people — a task that took him most of his adult life and required him to master biblical Greek and Hebrew.
Fourth and fifth centuries
Just think of how many people today need to hear the message of faith in a way they can understand. What Jerome did for Christians of the fourth and fifth centuries, we need people to do for our world. Jesus is eternal — yesterday, today and forever — but communicating Christ requires means and methods appropriate to varied circumstances. Jerome shows us how apostolic zeal and true personal holiness can motivate us to find a way to share Christ with others.
If you visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, you may notice that St. John XXIII is now buried in an altar under a very large mosaic image entitled The Last Communion of St. Jerome. Both these men, in their own times and their own ways, made the language of faith accessible to the people — Jerome through the translation of Scripture and John XXIII through the reform of the liturgy and the aggiornamento of the church in the Second Vatican Council.
St. Jerome and St. John XXIII
As disciples of Jesus, we should follow the examples of St. Jerome and St. John XXIII and continue the work of making faith intelligible to people we meet today. That doesn’t mean watering it down or changing it; it means taking the time and effort to translate it so they can understand the fullness of truth. People have a desire and a right to encounter Jesus Christ as the Word of God incarnate and to know, love and serve the Lord.
Jesus came so that God could be made known to the world, and he has sent us to carry on that mission. We will be faithful to our Lord’s commission when we, like St. Jerome, render the Gospel credible and intelligible through a holy and prayerful life of discipleship.
We celebrate St. Jerome each year on September 30, since that is the day he was born into eternal life. His example of holiness, discipleship and missionary zeal continues to be an instructive and inspiring model for us in our time.