Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Friends Augustine & Jerome

Saints Jerome and Augustine never met – not unlike many of our Facebook friends today - but they developed a cordial respect for each other despite their serious differences in views and opinion as extensively presented here. As a scholar, St. Jerome was best known for his exegetical studies chiefly to his revisions and translations of the Bible. Some early theologians said that Jerome missed being a theologian by not applying himself in a consecutive and personal manner to doctrinal questions. In his controversies he was simply the interpreter of the accepted ecclesiastical doctrine. On the other hand, in Augustine, inferiority in breadth and originality of view is most evident.

The lengthy discourse of the two great Church’s doctors started when Augustine, in a friendly manner, criticized Jerome for some phrases of the latter’s translation of the bible. During those days, letter delivery was a haphazard process and letters were considered public domain, just like our modern-day social network shouts or tweets or anything posted in our walls that can be viewed by others. Augustine’s letter took almost 10 years before it landed on the hands of Jerome. It had been read and copied along the way. In fact, it would seem, according to the book “If Augustine Were Alive” by Theodore Tack, OSA, that Jerome got one of the copies and wasn’t even sure it was from Augustine. Jerome wrote a rather blistering letter in reply which reached Augustine in just few months. Jerome was over assertive in his every conviction and because of this he and his former friend, Rufinus, parted ways over doctrinal differences.

How Augustine of Hippo replied to Jerome of Bethlehem is admirable: “I shall most gratefully receive a rebuke offered in such a friendly way … If I receive your correction calmly as medicine, I shall not be pained by it … And even though because of natural or personal weakness I cannot help feeling saddened … it is better to put up with the pain while the abscess on the head is being healed, rather than not be cured so as to avoid the pain.” Indeed, as friends we must be willing to accept correction live by it, as well as praise and appreciation.

Despite the fact that these two saints never met, they have the highest respect for one another and their succeeding exchanges showed real friendship despite occasional misunderstandings and contrasting opinions. That was because both Augustine and Jerome clothed themselves with humility. Many of our “friends” during our discussions here at Facebook are not doing the same. Many are getting worse everyday and not changing their ways!

Pride attacks our humility like in a deadly, senseless war. Pride is the most fundamental enemy not only of humility but of friendship. As one of the 7 Deadly Sins, Pride can be categorized into 3 demons, err… dimensions: pride of material possessions, pride of origins and pride of personal talents. Pride makes us rude and arrogant, negative qualities that we all hated in an acquaintance.

In his “Sermon 137” (nos. 3, 9), Augustine reminded us that, “Pride lurks even in good works, seeking to destroy them.” But many proud Facebook users, boastful as they are, hate quotes of wisdom from men and women of faith like Augustine and Jerome…

(Photo : Googleimages)

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