Today’s feast day for St Jerome falls happily the day before the feast of St Therese of Lisieux. St Therese said, “How different are all the saints! In heaven the greatest doctor of the church will sit down with a little child.”
So it is with these two. St Jerome–the cave dweller and patron of all bookish types who retreat to their cave and don’t like to be disturbed: St Jerome–the patron saint of curmudgeons and scholars. St Jerome was a noted controversialist and unwilling to compromise with the spirit of the age.
Next to this grumpy old guy we have a sweet little girl tomorrow we celebrate St Therese and are thus reminded that it takes all types of saints to make up the Body of Christ. Here a patriarch and prophet, there a virgin and mystic. Here a scholar and pastor there a missionary and martyr. Then we discover that the different saints–beginning from such different starting places in time, personalities, historical circumstances and cultural backgrounds–draw closer to one another as they draw closer to Christ.
Old Jerome in his cave in Bethlehem is not so different from Therese in her cell in Carmel 1500 years later. Both rejected the world for the love of Christ. Both loved and studied nothing but Scripture in the end. Both endured great hardships of the ascetical life and both endured both great darkness and great radiance in the love of Christ.
This is the lesson to all who would follow Christ, that as we walk that golden path our individual lives begin to transcend the times and cultures in which we live. We begin to grow into something deeper, wider and more magnificent than the spirit of the age or our own circumstances, family background and personality. We are subsumed. We are caught up. We participate in a greater glory and a greater truth. Our little lives are magnified and we mature into something and someone greater than we ever imagined..
As we do we do we grow into saints–grow into the person God created us to be–grow into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. As this process of theosis takes place we also grow out of ourselves and yet into our true selves. The little person we were dies and the greater person God created us to be begins to take shape. As this happens we find a fulfillment and completion in all the saints.
The innocence and child like character of Therese blossoms in our lives and at the same time the age, wisdom and knowledge of Jerome begins to flourish and come to fruition.
All we need to do is stay on the path and keep our eyes on Jesus–who is the author and finisher of our faith.