St. Jerome did not like St. Ambrose

In Book II of his Apology, Rufinus points out how Jerome had attacked Ambrose. He mentions Ambrose’ work De Spiritu Sancto. Thus, Rufinus about Jerome’s view of Ambrose.

Rufinus relates more of Jerome’s disdain for his “rival” in Milan (Apology 2,23-25) as he digs into accusations of plagiarism which were being hurled around.

Rufinus says in 2, 23 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:

25. You observe how (Jerome) treats Ambrose. First, he calls him a crow 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

Jerome took another, less than oblique 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 had probably been disappointed that he hadn’t been made bishop of Rome, surely felt the sting of this meteoric rise of Ambrose.

In any event, listen to Jerome:

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?

(Heri catechumenus, hodie pontifex; heri in amphitheatro, hodie in ecclesia; uespere in circo, mane in altari; dudum fautor strionum, nunc uirginum consecrator: num ignorabat apostolus tergiuersationes nostras et argumentorum ineptias nesciebat?)

No love lost there.

Some time ago I made a PODCAzT about St. Ambrose and pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

054 08-04-29 Pro-Abortion Politicians and Communion; St. Ambrose and Emperor Theodosius

Also on Ambrose:

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I remember reading JND Kelly’s bio of Jerome and thinking to myself, Wow, if Jerome can be a saint, maybe I can too.

  2. Stvsmith2009 says:

    From what I have read of Saint Jerome, he was, to put it as best I can…an old grouch. In reading letters between him and Saint Augustine, he was regularly taking offense at anything Augustine said to him, and seemed to excel at reading more into what Augustine wrote than was said.

    As for Ambrose, he is briefly mentioned by Jerome in his “Lives of Illustrious Men” in which Jerome wrote:
    “Ambrose a bishop of Milan, at the present time is still writing. I withhold my judgment of him, because he is still alive, fearing either to praise or blame lest in the one event, I should be blamed for adulation, and in the other for speaking the truth.”

  3. Gail F says:

    Did St. Jerome like ANYONE? He and St. Augustine went at it too, didn’t they? But it was more unseemly, because St. Jerome was old by then and St. Augustine was going for the jugular. Those guys knew how to insult, didn’t they? Makes our politicians look like amateurs.

  4. Gail F: Actually, Augustine was pretty respectful. Jerome, on the other hand, started out pretty condescendingly.

    They eventually buried the hatchet… and not in each other.

  5. Cathy says:

    Wow, imagine if they had blogs!

  6. Supertradmum says:

    St. Jerome used a rock for a pillow and stated once that if he had not done that penance, he could go to hell rather than heaven. At least he knew he had to do penance and as a great saint, he shows us that God can take a piece of coal and make a diamond. Hope for all of us, I think.

  7. Imrahil says:

    You may delete that, Fr Z, if it is not respectful enough (it is not meant in any condescending way)…

    but I give a little quote from a man who likes to make jokes in the way that you just cannot get out whether they had been meant serious after all, Hans Conrad Zander. He said: “You know, after all, St. Jerome is particularly the patron saint of unsympathetic people. Unsympathetic people, too, needed to have a saint.”

    Another quote, this time from St. Jerome himself: “Forgive me, Lord, that I’m a Dalmatian.” You can pretty much exchange this for Bavarian, you know.

    St. Jerome, pray for us.

  8. Imrahil says:

    Aaand, of course: St. Ambrose, pray for us.
    Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, immaculately conceived, pray for us.

    A very happy feast of the Immaculate, to you all.

  9. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    The Church has declared that Jerome and Ambrose are both saints. Thus they ARE, like Paul and Stephen, “the twain merry together in Heaven.” Saint Thomas More, pray for us.

    Saint Jerome is the patron of those involved in philological or scriptural scholarship. I like to think of him also as the patron of persons with quick tempers and impatience with others’ imperfections. (Some people are impatient also with their own imperfections.)

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