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St Jerome
Christian monk and scholar, who translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (the Vulgate)
(c. 342 - 420)



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A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept.
-- Letters, 1

Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price.
-- Letters, 3

It is easier to mend neglect than to quicken love.
-- Letters, 7

Libet, sarcina corporis abiecta, ad purum aetheris evolare fulgorem. Paupertatem times? sed beatos Christus pauperes appellat. Labore terreris? at nemo athleta sine sudore coronatur. De cibo cogitas? sed fides famem non timet. Super nudam metuis humum exesa ieiuniis membra collidere? sed Dominus tecum iacet. Squalidi capitis horret inculta caesaries? sed caput tuum Christus est. Infinita eremi vastitas te terret? sed tu paradisum mente deambula. Quotiescumque illuc cogitatione conscenderis, toties in eremo non eris.
Sweet it is to lay aside the weight of the body and to soar into the pure bright ether. Do you dread poverty? Christ calls the poor blessed. [Luke 6:20] Does toil frighten you? No athlete is crowned but in the sweat of his brow. Are you anxious as regards food? Faith fears no famine. Do you dread the bare ground for limbs wasted with fasting? The Lord lies there beside you. Do you recoil from an unwashed head and uncombed hair? Christ is your true head. Does the boundless solitude of the desert terrify you? In the spirit you may walk always in paradise. Do but turn your thoughts there and you will be no more in the desert.
-- Letters, 14

'Quae enim communicatio luci ad tenebras? qui consensus Christo et Belial?' quid facit cum Psalterio Horatius? cum evangeliis Maro? cum apostolo Cicero? Nonne scandalizatur frater, si tu vides in idolio recubentem?
'For what has light to do with darkness, what agreement can there be between Christ and the Devil?' what has Horace to do with the Psalter? Virgil with the Gospels? or Cicero with Paul? Will not your brother be scandalised if he sees you making your bed with idols?
-- Letters, 22

While truth is always bitter, pleasantness waits upon evildoing.
-- Letters, 40

Do not let your deeds belie your words, lest when you speak in church someone may say to himself, "Why do you not practice what you preach?"
-- Letters, 52

That clergyman soon becomes an object of contempt who being often asked out to dinner never refuses to go.
-- Letters, 52

Negotiatorem clericum, et ex inope divitem, ex ignobili gloriosum quasi quandam pestem fuge.
A clergyman who engages in business, and who rises from poverty to wealth, and from obscurity to a high position, avoid as you would the plague.
-- Letters, 52

It is worse still to be ignorant of your ignorance.
-- Letters, 53

Even brute beasts and wandering birds do not fall into the same traps or nets twice.
-- Letters, 54

Sometimes the character of the mistress is inferred from the dress of her maids.
-- Letters, 54

Alius vulnus, nostra sit cautio.
The scars of others should teach us caution.
-- Letters, 54

Venerationi mihi semper non fuit verbosa rusticas, sed sancta simplicitas.
My veneration has always been for sacred simplicity rather than wordy vulgarity.
-- Letters, 57

Plenus venter facile de ieiuniis disputat.
When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.
-- Letters, 58

Grandes materias ingenia parva non sufferunt.
Small minds can never handle great themes.
-- Letters, 60

O mors quae fratres dividis, et amore societos, crudelis ac dura dissocias.
O death that dividest brothers knit together in love, how cruel, how ruthless you are so to sunder them!
-- Letters, 60

Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple, who can restore it to its previous whiteness?
-- Letters, 107

Audio religiosam habere te matrem, multorum annorum viduam, quae aluit, quae erudivit infantem et post studia Galliarum, quae vel florentissima sunt, misit Romam non parcens sumptibus et absentiam filii spe sustinens futurorum, ut ubertatem Gallici nitoremque sermonis gravitas Romana condiret nec calcaribus in te sed frenis uteretur, quod et in disertissimis viris Graeciae legimus, qui Asianum tumorem Attico siccabat sale et luxuriantes flagellis vineas falcibus reprimebant, ut eloquentiae toreularia non verborum pampinis, sed sensuum quasi uvarum expressionibus redundarent.
I am told that your mother is a religious woman, a widow of many years' standing; and that when you were a child she reared and taught you herself. Afterwards when you had spent some time in the flourishing schools of Gaul she sent you to Rome, sparing no expense and consoling herself for your absence by the thought of the future that lay before you. She hoped to see the exuberance and glitter of your Gallic eloquence toned down by Roman sobriety, for she saw that you required the rein more than the spur. So we are told of the greatest orators of Greece that they seasoned the bombast of Asia with the salt of Athens and pruned their vines when they grew too fast. For they wished to fill the wine-press of eloquence not with the tendrils of mere words but with the rich grape-juice of good sense.
-- Letters, 125 (Ad Rusticum Monachum)

Of gold she would not wear so much as a seal ring, choosing to store her money in the stomachs of the poor rather than keep it at her own disposal.
-- Letters, 127

Neither Britain, a province fertile in tyrants, nor the people of Ireland, knew Moses and the prophets.
-- Letters, 133

A dreadful rumor reached us from the West. We heard that Rome was besieged, that the citizens were buying their safety with gold, and that when they had been thus despoiled they were again beleaguered, so as to lose not only their substance but their lives. ...The speaker's voice failed and sobs interrupted his utterance. The city which had taken the whole world was itself taken; nay, it fell by famine before it fell by the sword, and there were but few to be found to be made prisoner.
-- Bewailing the sack of Rome by the Visigoths Aug 24, 410, in a letter to Lady Principia (AD 412), as translatedby John Freely in Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)

Privilegia paucorum non faciunt legem.
The privileges of a few do not make common law.
-- Exposition on Jona

Noli equi dentes inspicere donati.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
-- On the Epistle to the Ephesians


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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