* St. Jerome – the Parish and the Saint

Painting of St Jerome     (from parish office)


This past Sunday’s homily was about the celebration of our patron saint – St Jerome. Fr. Anton shared some of the rich history of our parish and St Jerome. Here are some excerpts.

 About St. Jerome – the early years of the parish

  • July 1937 – A woman named Miss Elisabeth was told by a resident of north Berkeley that there was no Catholic church in Albany and that many Catholic children in the neighborhood did not attend mass. At that time, there was only St. John parish in El Cerrito.
  • July 1, 1941 – Fr. Rohan was the first pastor of St. Jerome; but, he did not have a church and rectory yet. So he took up temporary residence at 7211 Fairmont in the home of Miss Curtin, directly across the street from Harding elementary school.
  • July 20, 1941 – The first mass was celebrated in that Fairmount house with 9 parishioners in attendance. As the number of parishioners increased, masses were celebrated in the Harding school auditorium. By the end of 1941, the new parish consisted of 597 families who were predominantly American and Italian. Some of those same families continue to attend our parish today.
  • June 7, 1942 – San Francisco Archbishop Mitty blessed the St. Jerome church where we celebrate the Eucharist today. It is not clear who or how the appellation of St. Jerome was selected. But it is clear that the members of our church came from St. Ambrose parish. So, it seems that when we have a new church, it should have a patron that is one close to St. Ambrose in time and in vocation. St. Ambrose and St. Jerome are recognized as  fathers of the church, and both lived at the same time in the fourth century.

 About St. Jerome – the person

  • Fr. Anton found a painting of St. Jerome in the parish office that may help us more to understand and learn from our patron saint.
  • After leaving Rome in 385, Jerome traveled extensively in the Holy Lands and Egypt before he settled permanently in Jerusalem in 386. Jerome was greatly impressed by the holy sites in Bethlehem, particularly the grotto of the nativity. He built his cave near by the grotto.
  • Prior to leaving Rome Jerome worked extensively on his translation of the four Gospels He finished the translation when he resided in Bethlehem.
  • He died on September 30, 420.
  • In the early thirteen century, Jerome’s body was removed from the cave in Bethlehem to Rome. His body rests in the Basilica of Maria maggiore, Rome.
  • In the Golden Legend, a famous book of the saint in the medieval church, it was written about Jerome: “after doing his penance in the desert for four years, he went to Bethlehem and lived at the Lord’s cave like a domestic animal…fasting each day until evening. Thus he persevered in his holy resolution, and labored for fifty five years and six months at the translation of the scripture.”
  • A painter, Antonello da Messina, painted “St. Jerome in his study“. The original painting is now in London National Gallery. Here we see St. Jerome reading at his desk. Around him are numerous objects. At the left are a cat, a towel, and a hanging lamp. Below, there are a partridge, a peacock, and basin of water. On a shelf there are writing equipment and books, a crucifix, jars, and two oval boxes.
  • For us, the objects in the picture are not unusual, but they symbolize a lot of meaning.
    • Cat in Medieval and Renaissance literature symbolizes a negative power. Cat is associated with the devil waiting to trap human soul. This animal symbolizes specially the power of sexual temptation.
    • Peacock is a bird found in paradise setting. The bird symbolizes positive light, a symbol of immortality, holiness, and incorruptibility.
    • The basin of water next to the peacock refers to purification.
    • For fifty five years, Jerome worked to translate the gospel, and he was living between the power of sexual temptation and the power of light.
    • The basin, towel, clear glass and oval boxes are often found together. They refer to Mary’s womb and her purity. The painting relates the birth of Jesus from Mary to the birth of the bible in the Latin texts.
    • There is an analogous between Jerome and Mary. The birth of Jesus brings salvation to us, and the product of Jerome made the bible assessable for all human beings.
    • The lion and snails in this picture recall the victory of the resurrection of Christ from the tomb. The lion is also associated to the healing power of life.