Thursday, 7 May 2015

Pauline Nugent: Jerome and Augustine: the Human behind the Literary Façade

Although the lives of Sts. Jerome (ca.331-420) and Augustine (354-430), bridged the same two centuries, one would be hard pressed to claim that they held much else in common.  Both were early Church Fathers with remarkably disparate gifts: the elder a unique trilinguist, the younger a theological philosopher, both prolific writers who bequeathed priceless legacies to posterity.  But behind their literary façades one may also discover glimpses into the private, emotional, and inner lives of these two Christian giants.
Even a cursory reading of Augustine’s Confessions, readily yields multiple personal insights, for within its pages the saint bares his soul to God, always conscious of his future readers.  Speaking at the time of his mother’s death, he says:  “Legat ut volet et interpretetur ut volet et si peccatum invenerit … non rideat …(IX.12.33).
While Jerome’s inner life is not always so blatantly explicit in his writings as is that of his junior contemporary, it is nonetheless possible to draw back the veil of privacy and peer deeply into his emotional state.   I propose to do this by concentrating on his Prologues to the Prophetic Books of the Bible.  These Prologues contain insights of a very personal nature that allow one to define the natural dispositions and temperament of the author and compare and contrast them with those of Augustine.  This will produce a new and vibrant personal portrait of these early Church Fathers.

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