St. Jerome labored in a cave in Bethlehem for decades, to translate the Holy Scriptures into the street language of his people, Latin. Meanwhile, he also wrote about disputed subjects of his day, sometimes intemperately.
We pilgrims who visited Bethlehem together in 2009 celebrated Holy Mass in St. Jerome’s cave. Also, we pilgrims who visited Rome together in 2006, or 2008, visited St. Jerome’s tomb: the high altar in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Jerome rests just above a relic of the manger.
St. Jerome died 1600 years ago yesterday. Our Holy Father wrote us an Apostolic Letter to mark the occasion. The pope notes how artists have depicted St. Jerome as a model of devotion to God and His Scriptures. My favorite painter, El Greco, did a number canvases of St. Jerome. Pope Francis singles out this painting by Caravaggio:
I think the greatest depiction of the saint sits on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic did statues of Our Lady for both ends of the exterior of the Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington. But I think we find the sculptor’s masterpiece in front of his country’s embassy: St. Jerome, reading (see above).
St. Therese of Lisieux died on the 1,477th anniversary of St. Jerome’s death. She discovered her vocation to follow the little way of love by studying the Scriptures. As she explained in her autobiography, she came to understand her life by reading I Corinthians 13.
Some readers wonder: Does the Word of God teach me for whom to vote in the U.S. presidential election of 2020? Won’t some courageous priest just tell me who to vote for? Doesn’t the evil of procured abortion make it perfectly clear for whom we must vote?
I wrote an essay in 2008, explaining why Roe v. Wade is so dreadfully wrong. You don’t need to read the Scriptures or study the magisterium of the Church, in order to know how wrong it is. You just need to look at a sonogram.
Religion comes into it like this: we have a Christian duty to stand up for the innocent children in the womb, the largest, most-heinously oppressed class of all time. We cannot shirk that duty.
Everyone must determine for him- or herself, according to his or her individual circumstances, how that duty binds. We can offer conclusive arguments that abortion involves unjustly taking an innocent life. We can offer only speculative arguments about how this or that vote, in this or that election, will affect the situation.
I believe that clergymen have a right to free speech, like everyone else, provided we respect the proper times and places to say what we have to say. When we “have the floor,” so to speak, at the Sacred Liturgy, we do not have the right to get into disputed questions of politics, when no one on the other side of the question gets a chance to offer counter-arguments.
Speaking for myself as a voter, I did not come away from Tuesday evening’s debate seeing a clearly good option. Same thing happened four years ago: bad options. I wrote another essay in 2008, about how we have to try and keep politics in perspective; politics, after all, is inherently messy business.
What I think we have to keep in mind, and pray hard about this year, is this: The election of 2020 will unfold like no other presidential election that any of us can remember. Neither candidate will concede the election to the victor on election night, because exit polling will not tell us who won. No one really knows exactly when, or how, the outcome of this election will become clear. Maybe it never will.
May the good Lord pour down patience, kindness, and mutual respect into our hearts. We will need every ounce of Christian virtue we have, so that each of us can do our part to keep the public peace.