The Feeder Feed and a saint who couldn’t stand another saint

I haven’t posted anything about the feeder activity lately.Twitter

Here is an action shot!

This Blue Jay does not like the other flying competition.

Mr. Indigo Bunting likes millet.

A nice shot of a young female Oriole.  Most of the adults have flown south already.

Mrs. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird perched for a drink from the feeder on office window.

An alert Mrs. Cardinal.

There are fewer Goldfinches around right now, since it is time for them at last to nest.
I still have House Finches and Purple Finches coming around.

The Chickadees are back in force from their Alaskan cruise, or wherever they were hanging out.

I still have quite a few female Red-Breasted Grosbeaks, but all the males have flown, no doubt to stake out their territory down yonder.

No repeated sighting of Baeolophus bicolor, alas.

Elsewhere…. across the road I saw a Killdeer darting into a field.  I also had the great pleasure of watching a Red-Tailed Hawk successfully dive on his prey in a ditch by the road.  Once less member of the vermin class to annoy us.  There are numerous swallows in the evening, not to mention bats.   Though bats aren’t birds, they have my esteem.  Not only do the eat mosquitoes, laudable in itself, but they have an amusing name in Italian: pipistrelli.   I also am fond of "bat" in Latin: vespertilio.   The reason for this name should be obvious.

I think St. Ambrose was a little hard on the poor bat, frankly.  In Hexameron he quipped:

Vespertilio animal ignobile a vespere nomen accepit.

In his Commentary on Isaiah (1.2.20) the sometimes less than noble St. Jerome also explains the bat:


Vespertilio autem nocturna avis, quae congruum ab eis nomen accepit νυκτερίς, eo quod in nocte volitet, parvum animal est, et murium simile, non tam voce et cantu resonans, quam stridore, quod cum videatur volitare, lucifugum est et solem videre non patitur.


Jerome and Ambrose together in an entry about birds… 

Jerome did not like Ambrose at all.   I suspect Jerome was envious of the great Bishop of Milan.

Who can forget the harsh ornithological description Jerome applied to Ambrose?

In Book II of his Apology, Rufinus pointed out how Jerome had attacked Ambrose.   In Apology 2,23-25, as he digs into accusations of plagiarism which were being hurled around, he .  Rufinus says that Jerome referred to Ambrose as a raven, a bird of ill omen, croaking and ridiculing in an strange way the color of all the others birds on account of his own total blackness…

Praesertim cum a sinistro oscinem corvum audiam croccientem et mirum in modum de cunctarum avium ridere coloribus, cum totus ipse tenebrosus sit.


Again, going on about Jerome’s accusation against Ambrose of plagiarism, in 2,25 Rufinus continues about Jerome’s treatment of Ambrose with his own counter charges.  Here it is in English:


You observe how (Jerome) treats Ambrose. First, he calls him a raven and says that he is black all over; then he calls him a jackdaw who decks himself in other birds’ showy feathers; and then he rends him with his foul abuse, and declares that there is nothing manly in a man whom God has singled out to be the glory of the churches of Christ, who has spoken of the testimonies of the Lord even in the sight of persecuting kings and has not been alarmed. The saintly Ambrose wrote his book on the Holy Spirit not in words only but with his own blood; for he offered his life-blood to his persecutors, and shed it within himself, although God preserved his life for future labours.


Nope.  Jerome did not like Ambrose at all.

There is also Jerome’s devastating quip: Heri catechumenus, hodie pontifex.

In 397, the year of Ambrose death, Jerome wrote to a Roman named Oceanus who wanted Jerome to help him fight against a bishop in Spain who had married a second time.  Jerome tells Oceanus to drop it, since that bishops’ first marriage had been before baptism.  However, Jerome uses the occasion to take a swipe at Ambrose. 

Ambrose had been popularly proclaimed bishop in Milan in 374 even though he had not even been baptized and had no theological training. The emperor, who wanted peace, acceded and within a week Ambrose was baptized and consecrated bishop.

Jerome, who in my opinion was disappointed that he hadn’t been made Bishop of Rome, surely felt the sting of Ambrose’s meteoric rise.

Jerome wrote:


Heri catechumenus, hodie pontifex; heri in amphitheatro, hodie in ecclesia; vespere in circo, mane in altari; dudum fautor strionum, nunc virginum consecrator: num ignorabat apostolus tergiuersationes nostras et argumentorum ineptias nesciebat? … One who was yesterday a catechumen is today a bishop; one who was yesterday in the amphitheater is today in the church; one who spent the evening in the circus stands in the morning at the altar: one who a little while ago was a patron of actors is now a dedicator of virgins. Was the apostle ignorant of our shifts and subterfuges? Did he know nothing of our foolish arguments? 


So, there you have it, folks.  From Blue Jays to Bats and the less than edifying displays of ill-humor by a saint all in one post.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The-Monk says:

    Blue Jays are notorious for fighting off (if not exterminating) others who would take their food. I’ve watched them swoop down on a feeder, frenzied in their drive to rid the feeder of other birds.

    The Blue Jays around here love thistle seeds.

  2. Animadversor says:

    So, there you have it, folks. From Blue Jays to Bats and the less than edifying displays of ill-humor by a saint all in one post.

    Well, maybe not edifying exactly, but perhaps a little bit encouraging: if an ill-tempered, irascible fellow like Jerome can be a saint…. I rather like to think of Jerome and Ambrose in Heaven resting their heads on each other’s breasts, if that’s not too maudlin a sentiment.

  3. Whatever was the quarrel between Jerome and Ambrose on earth, I guess they’re over it now!

    I’m glad there was a grouchy saint. It gives me hope. I should hang a picture of St. Jerome in my office and have recourse to him often.

  4. JosephMary says:

    We have plenty of blue jays and yes, the chickadees are swarming as are the finches. Today I saw a nuthatch and had not seen one in several months. He took a drink at our little pond.

    My understanding is that St. Jerome was one grumpy guy! And he still made it to sainthood! There is hope for the rest of us!

  5. irishgirl says:

    Yep, that St. Jerome was one cranky guy!

    I didn’t know that he didn’t like St. Ambrose, though….

  6. Well, that certainly explains a lot about his willingness to believe St. Augustine had said nasty things, and to take swipes at St. Augustine. Guilty conscience, maybe?

    OTOH, he was really nice to devout women and took them seriously; and he violently defended both the Blessed Mother, and the little old ladies who just wanted to light oil lamps and pray to saints. He was all for the underdog and the normal Joe, in his grumpy way. It’s just that he could rapidly decide that you weren’t in that category….

  7. It’s okay, Irishgirl: he does now!

  8. Andrew says:

    Before forming some definitive opinions about these things one should read at least some of the writings of the people involved. Such as an aging already and famous Jerome receiving a letter from a recent young hitherto unheard of convert named Augustine who tells him basically something like this: “you’ve got some bad mistakes in some of your writings so start singing a retractation”. (palinodian ut dicitur cane). If you don’t believe me look up the letters of St. Augustine to St. Jerome. Later on Augustine acknowledges his error and apologizes.

    Or read some of the letters of St. Jerome where he repeatedly mentions St. Ambrose and praises him for his eloquence and learning. You can start with letter 22 “ad Eustochium” where he says the following:

    … legas Tertullianum ad amicum Philosophum, et de Virginitate alios libellos, et beati Cypriani volumen egregium, et Papae Damasi super hac re, versu, prosaque composita; et Ambrosii nostri quae nuper scripsit ad Sororem opuscula in quibus tanto se effudit eloquio, ut quidquid ad laudes virginum pertinet, exquisierit, expresserit, ordinarit.

    … read Tertullian … and the recent works of our Ambrose where he pours himself out with such eloquence etc.

    Read original works first, form opinions second. And ideally, get to know the entire sequence of events that led to some misunderstandings.

  9. Andrew: Of course Jerome would like Ambrose’s writing on virgins.

  10. frjim4321 says:

    Indigo Buntings ROCK. I love them. Thank you for the beautiful picture. Thank you so much. Wish I lived out west, the Painted Bunting also swell, but here in midwest the I/B is a good as it gets. Second only to my dear Bluies (Eastern Blue Birds) for whom our worm farm is at high production.

    And you blue jay fans? They are MEAN! Lucky for them federal law protects them from my Remington 870!!!

    All the best. Fr. Jim.

  11. susanna says:

    Not a fan of my noisy bluejays.
    Love St. Jerome.

  12. irishgirl says:

    Yes, Anita- Jerome and Ambrose are best friends in the heavenly Communion of Saints!

    And I don’t like bluejays, either-they scream too much and are very nasty with other birds! But they are very colorful, I have to admit.

    Your other ‘birdie pics’ are nice too, Father Z! I watched a cute little hummingbird outside the library window last week. They’re such little jewels!

    ‘Her Eminence’ the female cardinal looks a little ‘molty’-all sorts of different colors in her feathers. [yeah, that’s the nickname I give the cardinals when I hear them singing outside my house; doesn’t matter if they’re male or female! And I’m NOT an advocate of female ordination!]

  13. Wendy says:

    Vespertillio. Lovely name. I’ll remember that as I sit outside of an evening cheering the little guys on in their wonderful swoops and dives: “Go, guys! Eat more nasty mosquitoes! Grow fat! Yay, bats!”

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