Friday, September 30, 2011

Feast of Feasts!

It seems we are in the midst of a “feast of feasts”. Tuesday was the feast of St. Vincent dePaul, a very important part of our spirituality because our Founder, Father Thomas Judge, CM, was a Vincentian priest. We call the Vincentian priests and Brothers and the Daughters of Charity our “cousins”.
Yesterday was the feast of the Archangels, Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. Today is the feast of St. Jerome.
St. Jerome has become a favorite of mine. My first mission in Mexico was in a town called San Jeronimito. St. Jerome was the church’s patron and a large image of him hung in the front of the Church. The patronal feasts are celebrated with gusto in Mexico. Our arrival on the mission coincided with the feast. The people of San Jeronimito had never had Religious in their parish, which consisted of well over 50 chapels spread out over a large area. We received a grand welcome from them and the pastor. The Bishop even drove from Acapulco to celebrate and also welcome the new Sisters. This feast always brings back the memory of that wonderful day.
San Jeronimito, in the state of Guerrero, was a place in peril in many ways. It was touched by drug trafficking. While the town is on the coast, nearby mountainous areas were the scene of marijuana crops. I often heard the cry, “grow marijuana or starve to death”. I met many people who made courageous choices; the ones who chose not to grow marijuana as well as those who spoke out against the trafficking and ensuing violence. Some outspoken priests and religious as well as others lost their lives. All this happened close to 20 years before today’s drug-related terror and publicity.
San Jeronimito was in peril also because there was another war going on, the war against Catholicism. This may sound like a dramatic statement; however, San Jeronimito and the surrounding areas were dominated by religious sects. Catholics were a minority and were bombarded by visits from proselytizers holding Bibles and pointing to verses to prove that Catholics were wrong about just about everything. I might add that some of these groups had their own bibles. The verses in these bibles were and are changed regularly to accommodate their teachings.
The people were bewildered and would approach us asking us to teach them about the bible. I felt so inadequate with my very limited biblical knowledge. Around the same time I had been invited to study theology and wasn’t sure which area to choose. That quickly became a no-brainer. My desire to know more about the bible was fueled by these people so poor they had to scrimp and save to purchase one, but did so with such love and desire for the Word of God.
Returning to school was not easy after being away so many years. But, I became a highly highly motivated learner. Besides, I had my patron! In my first semester when I became acquainted with the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, I saw the quote: “Love the holy Scriptures, and wisdom will love you. Love wisdom, and she will keep you safe. Honor wisdom and she will embrace you.” (St. Jerome) St. Jerome also said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” An assiduous scholar, he is known for his translations of the Bible, particularly translating the Old Testament from the original Hebrew to Latin as well as for his work correcting some of the Latin in the New Testament. He is also known for his sometimes irascible nature and even had the chutzpah to take on St. Augustine when he didn’t agree with him. That didn’t diminish Augustine’s respect for him. He said, "What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known."
He was also a great supporter of women in their desire for knowledge and holiness. His own quest for holiness is also inspiring.
St. Jerome is called the Father of Biblical Science. He is the patron of biblical scholars, researchers, translators, librarians, and probably more, including those of us who have occasional grumpy days! I’m really grateful he was the patron of San Jeronimito.

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