St. Jerome controversy


I once heard from one professor of history from my university that St. Jerome came to were going to some visits to some households. I don’t know which women does this concern but allegedly there were some 2 girls that became sick. They wanted (or their mother, not sure) to see a doctor but Jerome told them to go nowhere and instead pray for their own healt. They did so and they died.

That professor I was having a history class then with said he “would rather not comment on St. Jerome” implying the story upset him a lot and we - Christians - call him a saint. He said he was reading it in one biography.

Do you know anything about the story? I read about Jerome on EWTN (HERE) and on wikipedia (HERE) but I didn’t find it mentioned.


I don’t know about the story. I’d have to read it in context. It could be that the two girls were miscreants, even in their early age. Demon girls, perhaps.

It’s also possible that it simply was their time to go. Like I said though, I’d have to read it in context.


Never seen the story, but even so. . .it may sound harsh but it’s a truism. . .we have been ‘dying’ since the moment we were conceived. If (big IF) this story is true, then St. Jerome was most likely telling them, rather than try to seek out a ‘temporary’ bodily health (and ‘doctors’ of that time were far from the doctors of our time; this so-called ‘doctor’ might even have been a quack, for pity’s sake!), to pray for health. And the girls had their prayers answered. In the OBEDIENCE to the WILL OF GOD, they received ‘spiritual health’. Remember how Jesus tells us, “He who loses his life will save it, but he who seeks to save his life will lose it?”

I would far rather be obedient to my Lord’s will and perhaps die ‘more quickly’ than I would have had I been disobedient; after all, in the end I am going to die anyway, and I would rather die in grace and have eternal life, than have a few more days, weeks, months or even years on earth, die in sin, and have eternal punishment.


Another possible question to ask, if this is a true story, is what did it mean to go to a “doctor” during that time.


And it would be helpful to start with your professor’s source. Could be he was reading the ever-reliable St. Jerome Was Not Very Cool, or the equally accurate Terrible Advice Given by Saints. I can’t remember the author’s names off the top of my head…




“In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the scorching sun so that it frightens even the monks that inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. In this exile and prison to which for the fear of hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, I many times imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them: In my cold body and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion was able to live. Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was” (St. Jerome : “Letter to St. Eustochium”).

He sounds like a sinner who’s made mistakes and overcome his human nature through Christ’s grace.
Thats what makes him a Saint.


Perhaps St. Jerome received supernatural knowledge that a visit to a doctor would not provide the healing they sought. After all, even today not everyone who visits a doctor is healed.

That their prayer for healing was not answered the way they wanted should not surprise anyone because sometimes the answer to a prayer is, “No.” Remember that St. Paul prayed three times to be rid of the thorn in his flesh but wasn’t. Likewise, Jesus prayed three times that he might be spared his passion but wasn’t.


But I of course think it is reasonable under every circumstances to see a doctor. Does that mean that we have no faith? Of course not. God gave us people and medications for our health. If the story is true, it crops up question also for me. But hard to tell, you know, when I didn’t read it personally…


Okay, this is bringing up a question for me. Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that the original story from the professor is accurate. Couldn’t we just say that Jerome made a mistake and did something stupid? Or can something like that not be said about one officially canonized?


Of course you’re right :slight_smile: The question for me is whether it’s really accurate and why would he advise someone so?

I think it is accurate, I don’t doubt much the professor’s source. He’s a professor of history after all.

I rather wanted to know what would motivate Jerome in advising so. Whether there was something behind or if it was realy a " mistake".


Ah. Thank you. Well, as others have said, it’s hard to tell without context. (By the way, from another poster, what is a “demon girl”?)


I wonder about that too :wink:


We could say that he made a mistake. The question is what kind of mistake?

Ecclesiasticus Chapter 38 DRC

Please note that Ecclesiasticus is not Ecclesiastes. It is what we know as Sirach in later versions.

38:1. Honour the physician for the need thou hast of him: for the most High hath created him.

38:2. For all healing is from God, and he shall receive gifts of the king.

38:3. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be praised.

38:4. The most High hath created medicines out of the earth, and a wise man will not abhor them.

What kind of mistake do you think Jerome made?


What university and who was the professor, maybe you should email him for the source document. It could be, that medical medicine was in poor shape back then, after all it has only been about a hundred years or so that blood letting was discontinued.


if the so-called history professor did not provide a source for the story, he is neither a reliable reporter on the life of St.Jerome, nor is he a very good history professor. His first concern should be teaching his students how to discover, use and evaluate historical sources. Sounds like he needs “Remedial Primary Sources” workshop.


Concerning “demon girl” see

The virgin is thus able to overcome the magician’s demonic retinue with the power of her spiritual charisma.

A similar story appears much later, in Jerome’s Vita S. Hilarionis eremitae where Jerome narrates the story of a young virgin who is attacked by magic. Eventually she is cured through the intervention of the aged saint Hilarion, who is able to release the girl from a demon that has possessed her. According to Jerome’s account, a young man desired to seduce a consecrated virgin of the church, and at first attempted to do so through the standard means of seduction: namely, “touches, jests, nods, and whispers” (tactu, / jocis, nutibus, sibilis et ceteris, 21).[17] When that failed he went to Egypt to learn the art of magic. Upon returning, he cast a binding spell on the virgin through a method widely attested archaeologically - the defixio - which he buried under the threshold of her house:[18]

Thereupon the maid began to show signs of insanity, to throw away the covering of her head, tear her hair, gnash her teeth, and loudly call the youth by name. Her intense affection had become a frenzy. Her parents therefore brought her to the monastery and delivered her to the aged saint. No sooner was this done than the devil began to howl and confess. (21)[19]

In Jerome’s account, the virgin falls victim to the magic, reacting exactly as ancient a)gwgh/ spells sought their victims to react - that is, the girl goes mad with desire for the magician and exhibits signs of possession.[20] This narrative contrasts sharply with the one from Acts of Andrew, despite the nearly identical plot of seducing virgins through magic. While the Acts of Andrew portrays the virgin as powerful and self-reliant - she is able to fend off the demons through her great spiritual power - the virgin in Jerome’s Vita S. Hilarionis eremitae depends on the Saint to release her. Furthermore, she is victimized not only by the magician but by the saint as well; he accuses her of being responsible for her own attack. According to Jerome, Hilarion “sharply rebuked the virgin when she had recovered her health for having by her conduct (cur fecisset talia) given an opportunity for the demon to enter” (21).[21] Thus she is doubly victimized in this story.


I think this sums it up. Jerome was just a man. He was also a man living in a very different time than now. I’ll never understand why we insist on applying how we think today to people who lived over a thousand years ago. Who can say what St. Jerome’s motivation was. First off going to the doctor back then wasn’t like packing up and going to Vanderbilt University Hospital. Even as recently as our own American Civil War there are records of soldiers begging to be killed rather than be taken to a doctor.

Doctors killed as often as they helped in those days. So who knows maybe Jerome though their odds were truly better staying at home and resting then going to some quack. Again who can say? The point though is that Jerome was human he sinned, he goofed up he made mistakes. Yet it was his surrender to Our Lord Jesus Christ that made him a saint.


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