Recently I was able to tour an exhibit, Da Vinci: The Genius, at Louisville’s Frazier Museum. I was amazed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume and variety of Da Vinci’s work. His anatomical sketches were amazingly accurate, and helped me understand how well he was able to depict the human form in his artwork. Near the Madonna of the Rocks in the exhibit was an unfinished work of Da Vinci’s I was unfamiliar with: St. Jerome in the Wilderness.
I didn’t know much about St. Jerome, but after seeing Da Vinci’s depiction of him I felt compelled to do some research. It turns out he was a rather controversial man. He is the patron saint of translators and librarians because he spent much of his life doing Biblical translations and writing commentaries on particular portions of the Bible and how important proper translation was. Evidently he was quite outspoken when he thought a translation was inaccurate or inappropriate in any way. He is often depicted in religious art “in the wilderness” because he lived for many years as a hermit, concentrating fully on his translations. Here is the prayer to St. Jerome, which I found rather unusual, but certainly appropriate for many modern-day situations:
“Through your anger and confrontations you remind us that we all have a duty to confront others from time to time. You also remind us that we have a duty to examine ourselves and confront our own weaknesses and harmful behaviours. Your life teaches that I must accept others for who they are. You taught of the danger of self-righteousness; of the importance of reflecting upon one of Jesus’ most insightful teachings: “Let the man who has no sin on his conscience throw the first stone.” In the light of your teachings, Saint Jerome, help me to see my own self clearly. Help me to confront my own biases and to act to change others only out of love. If I see that I have the duty to confront another, I ask you to be with me during those necessary but unpleasant moments of confrontation. Help me to remember that love alone can make changes for the good. Amen.”