Today is the memorial of St. Jerome – whom we should go read about right now. Let’s see…where?
For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of Gods, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
St. Jerome was quite a popular subject for artists – the inherent drama of his situation – out there in the wilderness, surrounded by his texts, translating and writing – was quite attractive to artists. Here’s a page with quite a few thumbnails of images of St. Jerome in art and here’s a French site that focuses specifically of images of St. Jerome and his lion.
And what of that lion? The imagery is rooted in early medieval hagiography which told a story – inspired most assume by Aesop, but others draw connections to another saint, Gerasimus, whose legend includes a similar tale. The story is of a lion, rescued from a wound by Jerome, who is brought into the monastery to watch and protect the monks’ donkey. One day, the donkey is lost, and the monks (not Jerome) assume the lion has killed him, and punish him with menial tasks as a consequence.
The donkey, however, had been stolen by traders, and one evening the lion sees the donkey, returning with the traders, and he alerts the monastery. The monks, so quick to rush to judgment, are chastised by Jerome, and the lion lives out his days, faithful to his friend.
There are at least two versions of this story retold for children. The more contemporary version was written by Margaret Hodges, who has quite a few saints’ books under her belt, and illustrated by Barry Moser.
Then there’s the Rumer Godden version which is a little longer than the modern telling, and is of course, by Rumer Godden.