Pontiff Extols Jerome's Biblical Insights

Comments on the Scholar's Many Lessons

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- St. Jerome left the Church many valuable lessons for everything from raising children to the importance of reading the Bible daily, says Benedict XVI.



The Pope said this today to the 25,000 people who had gathered in St. Peter's Square for the general audience. He drew heavily from the letters of the biblical exegete St. Jerome (347-419/420) to illustrate the many counsels the scholar gave.

The Holy Father said that in Jerome's writings, he "underlined the joy and importance of familiarizing oneself with the biblical texts." He cited one of the epistles of the scholar: "Don't you feel, here on earth, that you are already in the kingdom of heaven, just by living in these texts, meditating on them, and not seeking anything else?"

Jerome saw the Bible as the "catalyst and source of Christian life for all situations and for everyone," said the Holy Father. He further quoted teh biblical scholar, "The study and meditation of Scripture makes man wise and at peace."

"Certainly, to penetrate more deeply the word of God, a constant and increasing practice is necessary," said the Pope. He quoted Jerome who advised in a letter, "Read the divine Scriptures with much regularity; let the Holy Book never be laid down by your hands."

"Love sacred Scripture and wisdom shall love you; love it tenderly, and it will protect you; honor it and you shall receive its caresses," Jerome had written to a spiritual daughter. "Love the science of Scripture, and you shall not love the vices of the flesh," added the exegete.

In communion

Benedict XVI said that a basic principle used by Jerome to understand Scripture was to read it in the light of the Church's teachings: "Alone we are not able to read Scripture. We find too many closed doors and we are easily mistaken. The Bible was written by the people of God, for the people of God, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in communion with the people of God can we truly enter the core of the truth that God intends to convey us."

The Pope said that for Jerome, "an authentic interpretation of the Bible always had to be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church. The book itself is the voice of the people of God in pilgrimage, and only in the faith of these people we find the right frame of mind to understand sacred Scripture."

The Pontiff said that Jerome thus warned, "Stay firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that has been taught to you, so that you can preach according to the right doctrine and refute those who contradict it."

Jerome also wrote of the importance of not only understanding Scripture, but also living it, said the Holy Father. He quoted Jerome who said, "Even when mastering a wonderful doctrine, he who is condemned by his own conscience will be shamed."

Benedict XVI also discussed Jerome's teaching on Christian asceticism: "He reminds us that a courageous engagement toward perfection requires a constant alertness, frequent mortifications, even if with moderation and caution, an assiduous intellectual or manual work to avoid idleness."

The Pope said that Jerome taught that above all is "obedience to God. ... That is the most outstanding and the sole virtue."

Education

"Finally, we have to mention Jerome's contribution to Christian pedagogy," said the Holy Father.

The biblical scholar urged "parents to create an environment of serenity and joy around the children, to encourage them to study and work, also through praise and emulation, to encourage them to overcome difficulties, to nurture in them good habits and protect them from bad ones," said the Pontiff.

"Parents are the primary educators for children, their first life teachers," he added.

Benedict XVI continued by saying that Jerome underlined "the importance attributed to a healthy and complete education from infancy, as well as the special responsibility acknowledged as belonging to parents, the urgency of a serious moral and religious education, and the need of study for a more complete human formation."

Jerome was also a proponent for the education of women, said the Pope: "A vital aspect retained by the author but disregarded in ancient times is the promotion of the woman, to whom he acknowledges the right to a complete education: human, academic, religious, professional."

"We actually see today that the true condition to any progress, peace, reconciliation and exclusion of violence" said the Holy Father, "is the education of the person in its entirety and the education in responsibility before God and before man. Sacred Scripture offers us the guidance of education and of true humanism."