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St. Jerome’s strong words to priests seeking fame and fortune


Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 09/30/21

The cranky St. Jerome didn't mince words when writing about the duties of priests and the temptation of fame.

St. Jerome was a straight shooter when it came to speaking the truth, not afraid of what anyone thought about him. Most often his words drew the ire of his fellow priests.

This can be seen clearly in a letter to the priest Nepotian, who abandoned the military for the clerical calling. St. Jerome wrote extensively about the duties of a priest and had harsh words for those who sought fame and fortune.

Under Christ’s banner seek for no worldly gain, lest having more than when you first became a clergyman, you hear men say, to your shame, Their portion shall not profit them. Welcome poor men and strangers to your homely board, that with them Christ may be your. 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. 

St. Jerome had a preference for the poor, not only in ministering to them, but also for the simplicity of ministers. He believed a priest should be humble and not seek after wealth.

It is the glory of a bishop to make provision for the wants of the poor; but it is the shame of all priests to amass private fortunes.

When it comes to accepting large donations for personal needs, St. Jerome urges priests to refuse them.

Let us never seek for presents and rarely accept them when we are asked to do so. For it is more blessed to give than to receive … Showiness and slovenliness are alike to be shunned; for the one savors of vanity and the other of pride. To go about without a linen scarf on is nothing: what is praiseworthy is to be without money to buy one. It is disgraceful and absurd to boast of having neither napkin nor handkerchief and yet to carry a well-filled purse.

Above all, St. Jerome tried to express in his letter that a priest should practice what he preaches, being a poor man among the poor, serving them and seeking no earthly fame.

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