Jacques Maritain Center : Great Inspirers / by J. A. Zahm, CSC



PAULA and Eustochium, as well as their revered master, were at last in the land of the heart's desire. Far away from the luxury, the confusion, the exacting tyranny of worldly life, they experienced a peace, a liberty, a happiness they had never known before. For Paula and Eustochium, those noble ladies of the first house in the first city of the world, the contrast between their simple life in Bethlehem and that which they had been forced to live in the world's great capital was striking indeed. The silence, the solitude, the sweetness, they enjoyed in their new home filled their hearts with joy and rapture. At last they were free to devote themselves, without interruption, to their favorite study --Sacred Scripture -- in what was to them the holiest place on earth.

They lost no time in resuming those studies, which had been interrupted by their long voyage from Rome. While their monasteries were being built they begged Jerome to read with them, in Hebrew, the entire Bible from the beginning to the end, and explain all difficulties as they presented themselves. They had hitherto studied the Sacred Books according to their special attraction at the time, now one, now another. Jerome tried, but in vain, to decline this delicate and laborious task. But, as was ever the case in Rome, he was finally forced to yield to the entreaties of Paula and Eustochium. Writing of Paula many years afterwards, he says, "She compelled me to read, with explanations, the Old and the New Testament to her and her daughter."{1}

This reading of the Bible together excited in the two women a desire to make a still more profound study of each of the books of the Sacred Text -- especially the Epistles of St. Paul. In searching for commentaries on the perplexing letters of the Apostle of the Gentiles they discovered that there was practically nothing in Latin, and that in Greek only Origen had written a few authorized tracts. Commentators had hitherto recoiled before the attempt to explain writings that bristled with such countless difficulties. Paula then begged Jerome to undertake an exegesis of the great apostle, but he shrank in terror from so gigantic a task. Unable to overcome his objections directly, Paula tried to secure by address what she so much desired. She accordingly besought him to interpret the short Epistle to Philemon, which consists of but a single chapter. In this wise Jerome found himself committed, in spite of himself, to the great work which the noble matron had so much at heart. For, after the exegesis of St. Paul was once begun, she would no longer accept any further excuses from the reluctant master, and thus she obtained one commentary after another on all the books of the Bible.

From the days when they were first thrilled by the learning and eloquence of the ascetic Dalmatian in the Church of the Household, Paula and Eustochium had been bound to their devoted master by the strongest ties of esteem and friendship. But it was not until after their arrival in Bethlehem that properly dates that holy and happy influence which these illustrious daughters of the Scipios began to exercise, in so pre-eminent a degree, over the genius and the labors of Jerome -- an influence which persisted until their death, an influence which, as we shall see, ripened into the most abundant and beautiful fruitage.

Jerome -- and shall we not say the same of Paula and Eustochium? -- was at last fairly started on his great life-work --the work that has won for him the admiration and the gratitude of all succeeding ages. All that he had previously accomplished was but a preparation for the grand achievements that were to follow under the inspiration of the two peerless women who were always at his side to assist and encourage him in times of trial and difficulty.

It is now that his studies in Rome, his travels and researches in Gaul, Italy, Greece and Syria, Egypt and Palestine stood him in good stead, and enabled him to achieve what would otherwise have been impossible, and what would have been far beyond the strength and ability of any of his contemporaries. He had hitherto been sowing the seed. He was now to garner the harvest.

Jerome at this date was fifty-five years of age, in the zenith of his magnificent intellect, in the full vigor of a mind stored with the accumulated learning and wisdom of a life devoted to unremittent study and contemplation. But what was incomparably more to him and to the world, he had near him two extraordinarily gifted and sympathetic souls, who thoroughly understood him, and who knew how to direct his prodigious energy and stimulate his genius to the loftiest flights. Most of his work was undertaken at their instance and completed through their enthusiastic cooperation. Their wish was his pleasure; their request a command which he made haste to execute. This is evidenced everywhere in his letters, and especially in the prefaces to his many translations and commentaries.

On one occasion Paula desired to have a translation of Origen's commentaries on St. Luke for the use of the inmates of her convent. Although Jerome was then engaged in a work by which he set great store, he at once interrupted it in order to comply with Paula's desire. "You see," he writes her, "what weight a wish of yours has with me, for I have, without hesitation, discontinued my great work on 'Hebraic Questions' to assume, at your request, the dry and ungrateful role of translator."{2} On another occasion, when, in spite of his ardor, he seemed on the point of losing courage on account of the magnitude of the difficulties which confronted him, he was prevailed on by the incessant entreaties of Eustochium -- Quia tu, Eustochium, indesinenter, flagitas -- to complete one of the great works which had been begun at the request of herself and her mother. On still another occasion he was on the point of leaving a peculiarly difficult task unfinished, but after listening to Paula's arguments against such a proceeding, he ended by gratifying her wish, remarking, "Obsequar igitur voluntati tuae" --I shall submit to your will.

But not only were Paula and Eustochium the stimulus of Jerome's great labors in translation and exegesis, but they were also his consolation and support when he was made the target of hostile criticism and personal animosity. Shortly after his arrival in Bethlehem, he had located his study in a grotto adjoining the cave of the Nativity. This grotto, so near the birthplace of the Redeemer, he called his paradise. In this grateful retreat, surrounded by his precious library, he fondly hoped to enjoy uninterupted study and tranquillity. But the peace- loving solitary was doomed to disappointment. For no sooner had the fruits of his literary activity begun to be distributed in the West than his enemies began their attacks. They accused him of making his translations of the Sacred Text the means of disseminating false doctrine, and of announcing in his commentaries many views that were at variance with the accepted teachings of the Church.

These attacks, which so cruelly impugned the orthodoxy of the sensitive monk, cut him to the quick. "If my occupation," he cried, "had been to plait rush baskets, or to weave mats out of pa] m leaves, in order, by the sweat of my brow, to gain my daily bread, envy would have spared me. But since, obedience to the precepts of the Savior, have, for the good of souls, chosen to prepare the bread which perishes not and have wished to clear the path of truth of weeds which ignorance has sown in it, I accused of a twofold crime. If I correct errors in the Sacred Text, I am denounced as a falsifier; if I do not correct them, I am pilloried as a disseminator of error."{3}

It was during these trying hours, when persecution was most fierce and relentless, that Jerome most needed the sympathy and the support of his two learned and saintly friends and collaborators. "I beg you, I conjure you, dear servants of Christ," he writes in the preface to the Book of Kings, "to protect me by your prayers against the rage of those dogs which run through the city, barking, calumniating, sharpening their teeth in order the better to bite. Protect me from those ignoramuses whose knowledge consists in disparaging that of others. Defend me from their attacks, for you are my shield.{4} Aided by your prayers, venerable servants of Christ, Paula and Eustochium, I can sing in the blessed land of Judea a canticle I was unable to sing in the city of the fratricidal Romulus."

After Paula and Eustochium had persuaded Jerome to write commentaries on the twelve minor prophets, they wished him to take up the interpretation of the four major prophets, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel and Daniel. Appalled at the thought of so colossal a task, the diffident monk endeavored to escape from it. "The ocean of these prophets," declared he, "is so great and so mysterious. It would be better to observe silence regarding it than not to discuss it adequately." "No," insisted Paula and Eustochium, "it is better to say something than nothing at all." And, strengthened in their purpose by what they had already induced him to accomplish, and having in mind his own glory, they added with the grace and elegant address of sweetest friendship, "Is not a small blemish sufficient to deform a beautiful face? You have begun a monumental work. Can you leave it imperfect and unfinished?" As in all other cases, the peerless champion of the faith ended by acceding to the wish of his two insistent associates. "Since, then, you must have what you ask, I yield to your demand." Thus, under the incentive of these pious women, the old solitary felt a renewal of his youthful ardor and was moved by a noble love of that glory which his two friends always desired to see crown his labors.

Paula and Eustochium were thus not only the inspirers of Jerome but also his guardian angels. They were ever at his side, assisting and encouraging him in his Herculean labors; sustaining and cheering him in the hour of persecution and combat. Without their aid and sympathy, he would, probably, have succumbed more than a score of times. But when the assaults against him were most ruthless, he always found in them renewed energy and unceasing joy. They were made to love him, to admire him, to serve him in this world as an act of religion. They saw in this their glory and they contributed much to that of their friend and father.

A strange symptom was then manifested of the revolution which was then renovating Roman society from its very foundations. One of the great names of the world's capital had just attached itself to the plebeian name of a Dalmatian priest in a corner of conquered Judea, and received from it an immortality which has not paled beside the most famous events of Carthage and Numantia. Jerome has identified with works as durable as Christianity itself, of which they are one of the glories, the name and the memory of the two daughters of Scipio. Their learning, their virtue, their sweetness, their filial devotion to the great Doctor of the West, inscribed on the frontispiece of our Sacred Books, are known and celebrated even in lands where the history of Rome is unknown, and where, perhaps, it will never penetrate. Jerome hoped for this, and they had no doubt of it. And in the sacred friendship which bound them to him they found their sweetest pleasure on earth and saw in it, too, an earnest of eternal happiness in heaven.{5}

The intellectual activity of Jerome, while working under the inspiration of his two incomparable friends, was marvelous, and the amount of work which he accomplished under their benign influence, and with their efficient cooperation, was enormous. There were commentaries on both the Old and New Testaments, translations from the noted Greek Doctors, and letters innumerable to all points of the compass. For, from all parts of the Roman Empire, Jerome was appealed to as an oracle on all matters pertaining to Scripture, or to traditions and doctrines based on Scripture.

Never were the oracles, of Delphi and Jupiter Ammon consulted by so many people and from so distant parts of the world. Letters and messengers came to Jerome in ever increasing numbers -- from clergy and laity as well -- from his faithful friend Marcella and other members of the Church of the Household; from Augustine, the illustrious Bishop of Hippo; from the daughters of Druid priests in far-off Gaul.

Besides all this he found himself engaged in frequent controversies concerning the teachings of Origen and Pelagius and numerous others whose doctrines were open to suspicion or were manifestly heterodox. It was, indeed, a marvel that one man, who was most of the time in delicate health, could accomplish so much and that, too, of so recondite and important a character. Like Origen, Jerome joined to his immense knowledge an extraordinary capacity for work. And like his illustrious predecessor, he contrived to carry on his incessant labors with very little sleep?' His Biblical and controversial works were usually written during the daytime. His correspondence he reserved for the night, when a small lamp in his grotto frequently showed that he continued his vigils until the early hours of the morning. So indefatigable was Origen that he was known as Chalceutes -- man of bronze -- and Adamantinus -- heart of diamond. These same epithets could with equal truth have been applied to the indefatigable anchoret of Bethlehem.

But Paula and Eustochium saw to it that the numerous interruptions incident to Jerome's wide range of correspondence and to his numerous controversies did not interfere with their plans for an undertaking on which they had so long set their hearts -- a work which was to be the culmination of the master's achievements. This was nothing less than a complete Latin version of the Old Testament from the Hebrew original. All the previous labors of the tireless recluse, before the inception of this colossal task, had paved the way for this supreme effort, and nothing, after the task was actually begun, was permitted for long to retard its progress: or to militate against its ultimate termination.

Shortly after the completion of the monasteries in Bethlehem, which were to be the homes of the large Roman contingent, Jerome, at the urgent request of Paula, had made, partly from the Septuagint and partly from the old Italic version, what was practically a new translation of the Bible. But this great work, which, unfortunately, has been almost entirely lost, was but the prelude to the more difficult and more important translation from the Hebrew.

In the opinion of most people, this monumental work was wholly and solely the work of one man -- the famous Father and Doctor of the Church, St. Jerome. In a certain sense this opinion is well founded; in another it is entirely erroneous. Most of the actual work of translation, it is true, was performed by St. Jerome, but, had it not been for three Roman women of noblest patrician birth, it is safe to say that the Vulgate, as we now know it, would never have been completed, and probably never been begun.

The story of this prodigious undertaking reads more like a romance than veritable history. It is the story of genius overcoming untold difficulties, of energy and perseverance in the face of the seemingly impossible. But it is, above all, a story of the value of woman's cobperation in a noble cause, of the far-reaching effects of woman's influence in something that is, at first blush, without her proper sphere of action. Indeed, it may safely be said that we have not in all history a more extraordinary instance of the paramount importance of woman's collaboration in things of the mind, or of the efficacy of her benign influence, when guided by affectionate zeal and by keen and lofty intelligence, than in the production of the Vulgate. It is above all a story of surpassing interest for people of our own time, when opinions respecting the higher education of women are so divided, and when discussions about the proper sphere of woman's activity are so animated and so contradictory.

M.Ozanam does not hesitate to declare that this version of the Bible from the original text was one of the most daring, as well as one of the greatest, projects ever conceived.{7} It was, also, one of the most important to the Western or Latin Church, for as yet it had no direct translation from the Hebrew, while the Greek Church had no less than three, besides the Septuagint. The old Italic version, as well as Jerome's revision of it, and, also, the version from the Septuagint, were nothing more than translations of a translation. The time had come, however, when a Latin version from the original Hebrew was an imperative necessity. Jerome, with his vast encyclopedic knowledge, was the only man who was then sufficiently versed in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Chaldaic to attempt such a work. But no one realized more clearly than he did the magnitude of such a bold and difficult enterprise. Nevertheless, stimulated and encouraged by Paula and Eustochium, he set himself to work with his usual energy, and with fill the ardor of one in the bloomy flush of early manhood.

This is not the place to recount the part which Paula and Eustochium had in this huge undertaking, but it can be truthfully said that its history is intimately woven with their own history, and that the great fecundity of their lives in Bethlehem, or rather their providential mission in the Church, is exhibited at its best in Jerome's version of the Bible, long known as the Vulgate.

When Jerome began actual work on his opus maximum he was in his sixtieth year --an age when, according to certain modern physicians and pseudo-economists, one should be retired from the sphere of active life. He was also in precarious health, but his intellect was as clear and his mind as active and as vigorous as ever. But neither weight of years nor impaired health could restrain his impetuous nature, or render him less eager to comply with the wishes of his perfervid friends, respecting a work before which any other man of his age and infirmities would have recoiled as before the impossible.

The version of the Hebrew was not made in the usual sequence of the Sacred Books, beginning with the first and ending with the last, but according to the demands of the polemic of the time, or the expressed preferences of Paula and others, to whose wishes the gracious translator cheerfully deferred.

The part of the Bible first translated was the First Book of Kings. No sooner had he completed this portion of his work than Jerome submitted it to Paula and Eustochium for their criticism and revision. "Read my Book of Kings," he writes . . . "Read also the Latin and Greek editions and compare them with my version."

At other times, so great was his confidence in their knowledge and judgment that he desired to have his own authority corroborated by that of his unrivaled coworkers. Thus, in his preface to the translation of the Book of Esther, he writes, "You, Paula and Eustochium, who are so thoroughly versed in the literature of the Hebrews and so competent to judge of the merits of a translation, examine my version of Esther, comparing it word for word with the original, in order to determine whether I have in any way changed the sense of the original, and whether I have fully preserved in Latin the true spirit of the Hebrew narrative."{8}

And they did read and compare and criticize. And more than this, they frequently suggested modifications and corrections, which the great man accepted with touching humility and incorporated in a revised copy.

It may, indeed, be confidently asserted that no two persons since their time have more thoroughly and more lovingly studied and compared the Latin, Greek and Hebrew texts of the Scriptures, or have more completely made this occupation the work of their lives, than did Paula and Eustochium. Paula, Jerome informs us, knew the Holy Scripture by heart -- Scripturas Sanctas tenebat memoriter. And it would be difficult to name any other two persons who possessed a greater mastery of the three languages required, all of which they spoke with the greatest fluency and precision. Paula, Jerome assures us, knew Hebrew so well that she spoke it without the slightest trace of Latin accent -- sermonem absque ulla Latinae linguae proprietate personaret. And Eustochium, also, who was no less gifted than her mother, spoke this language equally well. We can realize how exceptional, among the great scholars of the time, were their attainments as linguists, when we remember that their eminent contemporary, St. Augustine, who devoted so much of his life to the study and interpretation of Scripture, was far from being proficient in Greek and knew Practically nothing of Hebrew.

But the service which Paula and Eustochium rendered to the venerable hermit was not limited to their criticism, advice and encouragement, to which he attached so much importance, and on which he so greatly relied for the perfection of his work. Far from it. It was Paula who, at her own expense, procured for him the books and rare manuscripts which were essential to the successful execution of his work. This was small assistance, for in those days the books and manuscripts that Jerome most needed --like Origen's "Hexapla" for instance --were exceedingly rare, and were worth their weight in gold.

Yet more. Much as has already been said of the share of these noble women in the great scholar's translations and commentaries, the most remarkable fact -- a fact almost unknown -- remains to be told. Under Jerome's direction, they undertook the delicate and important work of copying and revising Biblical manuscripts, in which they were aided by the inmates of Paula's convent. This was particularly true in the case of the Psalms, for, wonderful to relate, the Psalter which has been adopted in our Vulgate is not a translation made by Jerome from the Hebrew, but a corrected version of the Septuagint, due, in great measure, to Paula and Eustochium.

Amédée Thierry, a distinguished member of the French Academy, referring to the fruitful labors of Jerome's illustrious friends and collaboratrices, writes:

"One loves to picture them seated before a large table on which are spread numerous manuscripts in Greek, Hebrew and Latin; here the Hebrew text of the Bible, there the different editions of the Septuagint, of the 'Hexapla' of Origen, of the versions of Theodotian, Symmacus. Aquila, and lastly the Italic Vulgate; to observe these learned women controlling, comparing, copying with their own hands -- and with piety and joy --this Psalter. . . which we still chant, at least in great part, in the Latin Church today. The mind is then involuntarily carried back to their palaces in Rome, their ceilings of marble and gold, the army of eunuchs, servants and clients, and to their life there, surrounded with all the delicacies of fortune and all the pomps of rank. Like Mary, the sister of Martha, they believed they had chosen the better part, and they rejoiced thereat in all the fullness of their hearts."{9}

It was, thus, in Paula's convents, which were likewise schools of theology and languages, where every one of her religieuses was obliged to study Scripture, that was originated that important occupation of copying manuscripts, which became a universal practice in all the monasteries of succeeding ages -- an occupation to which we are indebted for the preservation of the treasures of Greek and Roman letters and science, as well as of the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and an occupation which, when we consider what it has saved for us, was probably one of the most useful which was ever instituted.

The mind dwells with pleasure on the work accomplished during medieval times in the scriptoriums of the Benedictines, Franciscans and Dominicans, and in those presided over by Hroswitha, St. Hildegarde, and the Princess-Abbess of Whitby, St. Hilda, the inspirer and patroness of Caedmon who was the precursor, by a thousand years, of the author of "Paradise Lost." But when recalling what we owe to these noble institutions, let us not forget that the origin and exemplar of all of them was the one that owed its existence to Paula and Eustochium in their famous convent schools in Bethlehem.

So highly did Jerome value the assistance given him by his two devoted collaborators that he dedicated many of his works to them. Others he inscribed to his former associates of the Ecclesia Domestica, who not only kept up a constant correspondence with their friends in Bethlehem but also exhibited an unabated interest in the study of Scripture as well as in the labors of their former teacher, in whose achievements they gloried almost as much as did Paula and Eustochium.

The Pharisees of the time, not content with reproaching the venerable Father with his persistence in dedicating his books to his spiritual daughters, went so far as to denounce it as a public scandal. His reply to his accusers, in his preface to the commentary on Sophonias, reveals the character of the man and his nobility of soul so well that I reproduce from it the following paragraph:

"There are people, O Paula and Eustochium, who take offense at seeing your names at the beginning of my works. These people do not know that Olda prophesied when the men were mute; that, while Barak trembled, Deborah saved Israel; that Judith and Esther delivered from supreme peril the children of God. I pass over in silence Anna and Elizabeth and the other holy women of the Gospel, but humble stars when compared with the luminary, Mary. Shall I speak now of the illustrious women among the heathen? Does not Plato have Aspasia speak in his dialogues? Does not Sappho hold the lyre at the same time as Alcaeus and Pindar? Did not Themista philosophize with the sages of Greece? And the mother of the Gracchi, your Cornelia, and the daughter of Cato, wife of Brutus, before whom pale the austere virtue of the father and the courage of the husband -- are they not the pride of the whole of Rome? I shall add but one word more. Was it not to women that our Lord appeared after His resurrection? Yes, and the men could then blush for not having sought what women had found."{10}

Could any modern champion of woman be more eloquent and more chivalrous than this roused anchoret of Bethlehem?

Paula did not live to see the completion of the version of the Bible from the Hebrew, of which she had been the chief inspirer and promoter. Little, however, remained to be done after her death. All had been translated except the Books of Josue, Judges and Ruth. These Jerome, although almost crushed by the loss of one who had been his consolation and support in countless trials and difficulties and persecutions, hastened, under the gentle but unceasing stimulation of Eustochium, to bring to a happy termination. When, finally, the last page was finished, he placed these three books on the tomb, as it were, of his sainted friend, as a pious tribute to her memory. "Now," he writes in the preface to these three books, "that the blessed and venerable Paula, whose life was an exemplar of virtue, has slept in the Lord, I have not been able to refuse Eustochium, virgin of Christ, these books which I promised to her mother."{11}

Thus, then, after fifteen years of the most strenuous toil, was finally completed, about the year 405, this first and unique version of the Scriptures from the Hebrew into Latin -- a version which, under the name of the Vulgate, was adopted by the Council of Trent as the authorized version for the entire Church. It was a marvelous achievement, which, all things considered, is without a parallel in the annals of scholarship.

When Johnson's dictionary was published, "the world," Boswell informs us, "contemplated with wonder so stupendous a work achieved by one man, while other countries had thought such undertakings fit only for whole academies." The statement is no doubt warranted, but with how much greater truth could it be made. of the Vulgate -- a work involving incomparably more preparation and labor, and requiring much greater equipment and a much higher order of genius!

The English Authorized Version of the Bible was the joint work of six committees, composed of forty-seven of the most eminent scholars of England, who labored nearly five years on a translation which was, in reality, little more than a revision of previous versions. Compared with the translation of Jerome, a noted Scriptural authority in the Encyclopaedia Britannica writes: "It [the Authorized Version, whose genealogy is to be traced up in a direct line through every stage of Biblical revision to the Latin Vulgate] stands preeminent for its accurate representation of the original Hebrew and Greek, and may challenge favorable comparison in this respect. . . with the Latin Vulgate." Could more be said of the transcendent excellence of Jerome's work, or give a clearer idea of its magnitude than these two statements? But the translator of the Vulgate had the supreme advantage of laboring under the benign influence of a twin star -- Paula and Eustochium -- the most brilliant luminary of the kind that ever appeared in the ecclesiastical firmament during the course of the Church's history.

Jerome was seventy-five years of age when the Vulgate was given to the world. His labors, however, were not yet terminated. He had promised Paula, during her life, to write commentaries on all the Prophets. Although a part of this task had been completed, the most difficult portion of it still remained untouched. But the weight of years, failing eyesight, and broken health did not deter him from fulfilling a promise made long years before. With the assistance of Eustochium, who was always near him to sweeten his task and alleviate his sufferings, he labored on with amazing ardor. Paula in the tomb still animated him no less than when she was alive, and unceasingly acted as his inspiring guardian angel. Under the magic of her name and ever-persisting influence, under the spell of her sweet and fondly cherished memory, his indomitable energy never flagged, and his wonted activity never, abated.

Paula had dreamed of a monument of exegesis in which should be embalmed all the knowledge accumulated by the venerable solitary during his long and busy life; a monument that should forever endure to the glory of the Church and to his own glory. "And shall this monument," queried, with anxious mien, the gentle, ardent Eustochium, "remain unfinished?" "No," exclaimed, in the language of Virgil, the high- minded old man, "dum spiritus hos regit artus" --while the breath of life remains -- I shall remain faithful to my promise. The day was not long enough for him, so, by the aid of the flickering light of a small lamp, he continued his labors far into the night. Finally, enfeebled by his great age, his eyes refused to serve him any longer, and he was unable to decipher his Hebrew manuscripts without the aid of some of his brethren in the monastery. They read to him the exegetists he could no longer read himself, and he dictated to them his commentaries. At last, when in his eightieth year, his task was finished, and he was able to say to Eustochium who, after her mother's death, had been his unfailing support and comforter: "You force me, O virgin of Christ, Eustochium, to pay you the debt which I owed to your sainted mother while she was yet living.{12} My affection for her is not greater than that which I have for you. But you are present; in obeying you, I acquit myself of the debt I have owed both of you." The picture of the toilworn and heroic octogenarian handing this final volume to Eustochium, Paula's heiress and executrix, and thus acquitting himself of what he considered the most sacred of obligations, is one of the most touching spectacles in the history of letters and sanctity.

Shortly after seeing all of Paula's dreams realized and her own as well, the gentle, ardent, gifted Eustochium, the first of patrician maidens to make the vow of virginity, followed her mother to another world. Jerome's only consolation, after her death, was the granddaughter of Paula, who, some years previously, had come from Rome and who, like her aunt and grandmother, had the ineffable happiness of studying Scripture under the same master who, nearly forty years before, had inaugurated a course of Bible study in the Ecclesia Domestica on the Aventine, and who had there, under the inspiration of those who were nearest and dearest to her, as well as to him, begun that brilliant career which issued in his being ranked among the most eminent Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

Young Paula, who was now a maiden of twenty years, and had inherited all the rare qualities of mind and heart, which so distinguished the other members of her family, was the light and life of the noble and venerated patriarch during the year in which he survived the death of his devoted daughter in Christ, Eustochium. And when the end came, after his long and faithful service in the cause of Biblical science, it was young Paula who closed his eyes in death, and who had his precious remains laid away near the grotto of the Nativity, not far from those of the two exalted souls

In goodness and power preeminent,

who, for more than a third of a century, had watched over him with the most tender solicitude, and who, by developing to the utmost all the resources of his matchless intellect, had converted the retiring and diffident monk of Chalcis into the brightest luminary in Christendom.

The last years of Jerome and his saintly inspirers were saddened by many bereavements which followed one another in rapid succession. Among these were the deaths, in Rome, of several members of the family of Paula and Eustochium. There were also the deaths of numerous inmates of the convent on the Aventine. Chief among them was Marcella -- the foundress of the convent -- who, although far away from Bethlehem, had always kept up a regular correspondence with her cherished friends, Paula and her daughter, and her venerated teacher of happier days, Jerome.

But the greatest affliction of the devoted trio was to witness the agony of the august Roman Empire. Its dissolution had long been imminent, but no one was prepared for the final catastrophe. And still less was anyone prepared to see Rome -- the capital of the world -- fall into the hands of the barbarians from the North. Its inhabitants fondly imagined that the great city of the Caesars was specially protected by a kind of inviolable majesty and that it was destined to endure for all time. But Alaric finally gained possession of the queen of the world and turned the ill-fated city over to his brutal soldiery who, for three days, knew no law but that of fire and sword.

When the story of these atrocities reached Bethlehem, Jerome was prostrated with grief. In lamentations worthy of Jeremias, he exclaimed: "The light of the world is extinguished; the Roman Empire is decapitated; in the fall of a single city the universe collapses. . . . Who would have believed that Rome, the proud sovereign of the nations, enriched by the spoils of the entire world, could become the sepulcher of its own people and that her sons would become fugitives and slaves on all the shores of the East, of Egypt and Africa? Who would have imagined that Bethlehem would one day receive as mendicants the most illustrious families of the Eternal City? We cannot give assistance to all of them; but we give them at least our tears, and we weep with them" -- quibus, quoniam opem ferre non possumus, condolemus, et lacrymas lacrymis jungimus.{12}

Jerome is usually characterized as a man who was of an exceedingly stern and austere nature. He was, indeed, an implacable foe to idleness, frivolity and luxury, but, although he was austere in his own manner of living, in his dealings with others he was always kind, indulgent and affectionate. In his celebrated letter to his friend, Heliodorus, appealing to him to join him in a monastic life in the desert of Chalcis, he declares, "I have not a heart of iron or bowels without feeling, neither have I been born of a rock, nor have I been suckled by a Hyrcanian tigress."{13}

The foregoing pages regarding his relations towards his friends and pupils in Rome and Bethlehem exhibit him in a different light. He. may not have been of the effusive and demonstrative disposition of his illustrious friend and contemporary, St. Augustine, as portrayed in Ary Scheffer's splendid painting of St. Monica and her son, but he was, nevertheless, a man of a deeply affectionate nature, of rare generosity and nobility of soul, and, above all, a man of unswerving loyalty to his friends.

No man, probably, was ever so completely under the sublime inspiration of "the eternal womanly" as was this exemplar of penance and mortification. From the time he came under the potent influence of Marcella and her gifted friends in the convent on the Aventine, until, when on the verge of the tomb, he gave young Paula her last lesson in Scripture, it was this inspiring force that kept him on the highest plane of intellectual effort. Above all, the spectacle of the sublime virtues of Paula and Eustochium, especially during the last trying years of their lives, afforded him repose, and enabled him, far away from scenes of incessant strife, to mount to the serene regions of spiritual peace and joy. For this reason, he never speaks of these two admirable women except with veneration -- a veneration which was more profound for Paula and more paternal for Eustochium -- a veneration, too, which was always full of a humility in which he forgets absolutely the part that is his in the virtues before which he bows in reverence. He continually repeats: "The saintly, the venerable Paula"; "Eustochium, the flower of virgins," "the pearl of solitude." In his letters to his correspondents in Rome, Spain, Gaul, Africa, he loves to dilate on the sanctity of his two illustrious associates. For the father of their souls whose great merits they knew so well, for the eminent Doctor who, while illuminating the entire Church, shared with them so generously his vast treasures of learning, Paula and Eustochimn always entertained the deepest reverence and affection. Their confidence in him was as full of respect as their filial gratitude toward him was touching and sincere. They were inexpressibly happy in having found so excellent a spiritual guide and so inexhaustible a fountain of all knowledge.{14}

From this holy union of hearts and souls, it would be difficult to decide who derived the most benefit -- the pious and learned Paula, the devoted and ecstatic Eustochium, or the zealous and erudite Jerome, who, thanks to the sympathy and cooperation of his two incomparable friends, was able to produce those monumental works which will ever constitute his chief glory in the Church which he served so long and so well.

We admire "the eternal womanly" in Aspasia, who was the inspiration of the most brilliant geniuses of Attica in the golden age of Greece; we admire it in St. Hilda, who unsealed the lips of Caedmon and made him the first of English bards; we admire it in St. Clare, who sustained St. Francis, the poverello of Assisi, in his great, world-embracing work of charity and reform; we admire it in Beatrice, the sovereign influence in the production of Dante's immortal "Divina Commedia"; we admire it in Vittoria Colonna, who stimulated Michelangelo in his sublimest conceptions; we admire it in the relations between Frankish and Saxon nuns and learned scholars and saintly ecciesiastics -- between the poet Fortunatus and Saint Radegunda; between Alcuin and the daughters of Charlemagne; between St. Lioba and St. Boniface. But in none of these inspirers of great and holy things do we find that long-continued, ever-present, all- dominating, supremely effective power of "the eternal womanly" that so distinguished Paula and Eustochium, and which has forever identified them with Jerome's masterpiece, the Vulgate.

Dante, at the conclusion of his "New Life," in referring to his great work -- the "Divina Commedia," which he then had in contemplation -- writes concerning Beatrice, the lady of his heart, "I hope to say of her what was never said of any woman." Jerome, in addressing his last farewell to Paula, in his famous funeral eulogy, expresses himself to the same effect, but in a different manner. In words broken by sobs and tears, the grief-stricken patriarch exclaims, "Vade, O Paula" -- Adieu, Paula --"sustain by thy prayers the declining years of him who has held thee in such veneration and affection. Thy faith and thy works unite thee to Christ. In His presence thy petitions will readily be granted." Then, recalling his life-work, a work which he is always pleased to regard as her work as well as his own, he is comforted in his deep affliction, for he feels that her memory will endure as long as men shall be moved by the deeds of heroic lives or stirred by the records of preeminent merit and achievement. And giving a beautiful turn to a well-known sentiment of Horace and Ovid, he rejoices even in his sorrow, for he can say in the language of solemn prophecy, "Exegi monumentum tuum aere perennius, quod nulla destruere possit vetustas" -- I have raised to thee a monument more durable than bronze, which time shall never destroy.

What a wonderful prophecy! And what a marvelous fulfillment of it has been witnessed during the ages which have elapsed since these words were pronounced! Paula's monument was Jerome's life-work -- his letters, his doctrinal treatises, his commentaries, but above all, his Latin version of the Hebrew ScripturesÄthe Vulgate. And what a unique monument it was and will ever be!

All the Anglo-Saxon translations, not to speak of others, were made from it, as was also the English version of Wyclif, while its influence on Tyndale's and subsequent English versions was most profound. It was the first book to come from the press of Gutenberg; a copy of this edition is the most prized volume in the world today. But a still more signal honor awaited it, for it was decreed by the Council of Trent that "the old and Vulgate edition," approved "by the usage of so many ages," should be the only Latin version used in "public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions." And so far-reaching has been its influence through the centuries that the religious terminology of the languages of Western Europe has, in great part, been derived from or colored by the Vulgate.

Nor is this all. As is well known, most of the modern languages of Europe have been formed under the influence of, and as the result of, the fecundity of the ancient Latin. But the Latin from which these languages have been fashioned was not the language of Cicero, nor of Virgil, popular as they were during the Middle Ages, but the language of the Church and of the Bible -- the language of the Vulgate -- which was created by Jerome acting under the inspiration of Paula and Eustochium. It is the Vulgate which was the first book of which the nascent languages of medieval times essayed a translation, the first book of which an attempt at translation was made in the German of the eighth century and in the French of the twelfth century. It is the Vulgate, with its admirable narratives, with the fascinating simplicity of Genesis, with its charming pictures of the infancy of the human race, that supplied the needed language in which to address the barbarians from the North when they first came under the beneficent influence of Christian civilization.

Our fathers were wont to cover the Vulgate with gold and precious stones. And they did more. Whenever a council of the Church was convened, the Sacred Scripture -- that is, the Vulgate -- was placed upon the altar in the midst of the assembly which it, in a certain sense, dominated, while, on the occasions of great and imposing outdoor processions, the Bible was carried in triumph in a golden reliquary.

"Our ancestors," declares Ozanam, "had good reason to carry the Bible in triumph and to cover it with gold. For this first of ancient books is," as he truly observes, "also the first of modern books, because from its pages have sprung all the languages, all the eloquence, all the civilization of the later centuries."{15}

St. Jerome was right. The monument he erected to Paula, or rather to Paula and Eustochium -- for mother and daughter may not be separated -- is imperishable. And the glory of their work, far from diminishing with the passing ages, becomes, on the contrary, greater as the world grows older and wiser. Who, then, that has read the story of the labors of the Dalmatian monk, and of the heiresses of the Scipios and the Gracchi, can any longer question the supreme importance of woman's influence in every sphere of human endeavor, or seriously contend that inspiration, of the kind noted in the preceding pages, is of lesser moment than achievement? And who can fail to see Goethe expressed a profound and beautiful truth when, in the closing verses of "Faust," he declared it is "the eternal womaniy that leads us on" --

Das Ewig-Weibliche Zieht uns hinan.

The life of Jerome, so strange and, withal, dramatic and so fascinating, gave rise, at an early age, to many legends of rarest interest. According to certain hagiographs, no spot in Judea witnessed a greater number of miracles than the last resting place of the saintly doctor of Bethlehem. The fame of his amazing knowledge of Holy Scripture made him a kind of initiator of souls things divine in the life beyond the tomb, a role which Dante, with less reason, attributed to Virgil. We are assured that three persons, who had died while invoking the name of Jerome, and who had expressed the wish that their dead bodies should be placed on the sackcloth which he had used, were restored to life and reported that the holy monk had guided their souls through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, explaining to them the while the mysteries of the supernatural world, the ineffable felicity of the elect and the terrible lot of the damned.

The Middle Ages, which admired asceticism only as it was painted in the lives of the fathers of the Thebaid, replaced the gracious figures of Paula and Eustochium in the hermitage of Bethlehem by that of a lion, which was at first a protégé of Jerome, and afterwards his protector and grateful servant. According to a biography of the saint, which had a great vogue during the ninth and tenth centuries, the venerable solitary one day saw a huge lion, with a wounded paw, enter his grotto. Taking compassion on the suffering brute, the saint miraculously cured him. Then, so runs the legend, the grateful animal gave himself entirely to Jerome, and when not at his master's feet he guarded the ass belonging to the monastery, performed the office of a beast of burden, drove away thieves, and would have eaten them alive had they not sought safety in flight.

This fable met with universal acceptance during the medieval times, and more than one crusader of the army of Godfrey of Bouillon reported having seen, in the fields about Bethlehem and among the rocks of the land of David, the holy hermit accompanied by his enormous and devoted lion.

Legend is popular apotheosis of the élite of mankind. Fortunate are they whose high achievements have merited for them such distinction. No one, assuredly, was more worthy of it than was the humble anchoret who, although hidden in a grotto in a remote corner of Judea, was, nevertheless, able, by the sheer force of knowledge and sanctity, to quicken the pulse of Christendom and to furnish us, at the same time, the most vivid and the most perfect picture of the age in which he lived and of which he and his two incomparable inspirers and collaborators will ever remain the most conspicuous figures.{16} For Jerome, Paula, Eustochium, all three of whom are honored by the church as saints, constitute a triple star of the first magnitude -- a star whose brilliancy will suffer no diminution so long as the world shall admire friendship and holiness and acclaim profound learning and supreme genius.

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{1} Compulit me ut vetus et novum Instrumentum, cum filia, me disserente, perlegeret. Quod propter verecundiam negans, propter assiduitatem tamen et crebras postulationes ejus praestiti, ut docerem quod didiceram. Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXII, col. 902.

{2} Perspicitis enim, quantum apud me et auctoritas vestra, et voluntas valet Praetermisi paululum "Hebraicarum Quaestionum" libros, ut ad arbitrium vestrum lucrativis operis haec, qualiacunque sunt, non mea, sed aliena dictarem. Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXVI, cols. 229, 230.

{3} "Praefatio in Librum Job." Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXIX, col. 63.

{4} Sed et vos famulas Christi rogo. . . ut contra latrantes canes, qui adversum me rabido ore desaeviunt, et circumeunt civitatem, atque in eo se doctos arbitrantur, si aliis detrahant, orationum clypeos apponatis. Migne, ut sup., Tom. XXVIII, col. 604.

{5} Cf. Amédée Thierry, "Saint Jérôme, La Société Chrétienne à Rome et l'Émigration Romaine en Terre Sainte," Tom. I, p. 327, Paris, 1867.

{6} "La Civilisation au Cinquième Siècle," Tom. II, p. 126, Paris, 1894.

{7} Vos autem, O Paula et Eustochium, quoniam et bibliothecas Hebraeorum studuistis entrare, et interpretum certamina comprobatis, tenentes Esther Hebraicum librum, per singula verba nostram translationem aspicite, ut possitis agnoscere menihil etiam augumentasse addendo, sed fideli testimonio simpliciter sicut in hebraeo habetur, historiam hebraicam Latinae linguae tradisse. Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXVIII, cols. 1504, 1505.

{8} Op. cit., Tom. I, p. 331.

{9} For the benefit of thos eof my readers who are familiar with Latin I give this noble passage in full:

Antiquam Sophoniam aggrediar, qui nonus est in ordine duodeim prophetarum, respondedum videtur his qui me irridendum aestimant, quod omissis viris, ad vos scribam potissimum, O Paula et Eustochium. Qui, si scirent Oldam, viris tacentibus, prophetasse, et Deboram iudicem pariter propheten, hostes Israel, Barac timente, superasse: et Iudith et Esther, in typo Ecclesiae, et occidisse adversarios, et periturum Israel de periculo liberasse: nunquam post tergum meum manum curvarent in ciconiam. Taceo de Anna et Elizabeth, et caeteris sanctis mulieribus, quarum velut siderum igniculos, clarum Mariae lumen abscondit. Ad gentiles feminas veniam, ut et apud saeculi philosophos videant animorum differentias quaeri solere, non corporum. Plato inducit Aspasiam disputantem: Sappho cum Pindaro scribitur, et Alcaeo: Themista inter sapientissimos Graeciae philosophatur: Corneliam Graechorum, id est, vestram, tota Romanae urbis turba miratur: Carneades eloquentissimus philosophorum, acutissimus rhetorum, qui apud consulares viros et in Academia plausus excitare consueverat, 673-674 non erubuit in privata domo, audiente matrona, de philosophia disputare. Quid referam Catonis filiam, Bruti coniugem, cuius virtus facit ne patris matritique constantiam tantopere miremur? Plena est historia tam Graeca quam Latina virtutibus feminarum, et quae integros libros flagitent, Mihi tantum, quia aliud operis incumbit in fine prologi dixisse sufficiat, Dominum resurgentem primum apparuisse mulieribus, et appostolorum illas fuisse apostolas, ut erubescerent viri non quaerere, quem iam fragilior sexus invenerat. Migne, op. cit, Tom. XXV, cols. 1337, 1338.

{10} Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXVIII, col. 506.

{11} Cogis mi, virgo Christi, Eustochium, quod sanctae matri tuae Paulae, dum viveret, pollicitus sum, tibi reddere. Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXIV, col. 17.

{12} Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXV, cols. 16 and 75.

{13} Non nobis est ferreum pectus, nec dura praecordia; non ex silice natos Hyracanae nutriere tigrides. Migne, op. cit., Tom. XXII, col. 348.

{14} M. l'Abbé F. Lagrange, "Histoire de Sainte Paule," pp. 412-413, Paris, 1883.

{15} Nos ancêtres avaient raison de porter la bible en triomphe et de la couvrir d'or; ce premier des livres anciens est aussi le premier des livres modernes; il est, pour ainsi dire, l'auteur de ces livres mêmes, car de ses pages devaient sortir toutes les langues, toute l'éloquence, toute la poésie et toute la civilisation des temps nouveaux. "La Civilisation au Cinquième Siècle," tom. II, p. 148.

{16} Vid. Thierry, op. cit., Tom. II, p. 242 et seq.

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