Capito’s pensive mood illustrated by images of St. Jerome.
Will I live the rest of my life in this backwater of Bruchsal, preaching to these Benedictine canons, who display little interest in reforming their education, their morals, or the Church? I have no bishop to direct me, for he who hired me has gone to the grave, and his position remains to be filled by a landed noble, who is still training for the priesthood. Hardly one who can direct me spiritually or professionally.
I debate my options. I could, perhaps, make a pilgrimage to Rome. That has launched the church careers of some, but I have no contact to introduce me to anyone of influence.
I could return to the university, but I know all too well the life of a struggling scholar who, without a doctorate, barely makes enough by lecturing to buy food.
When I think of the University of Freiburg, I naturally remember the good friends there, and their pleasant company at the Hog’s Snout. But, in truth, they are scattered. Only Zell remains at Freiburg. The young monk, Michael, has returned to his abbey of St. Peter’s, and Hubmaier, who did get his doctorate, teaches at the University of Ingolstadt. Fabri, with his pair of doctorates in civil and canon law, has escaped an unhappy situation at Lindau and now serves in the cathedral at Basel.
I am left behind. A failure.
I try to encourage myself by remembering St. Jerome. That illustrious scholar lived a meager existence in the wilderness but produced a great output of important work. His correction of the Latin New Testament gave us the Vulgate, the Bible we have used for a thousand years. His translation of the Hebrew gave us an Old Testament based on the original language rather than Greek. He also wrote commentaries, theological treatises, and history. His letters show us a man tortured by temptation and his own volatile temper.
I think of the many paintings and woodcuts of Jerome, often accompanied by his faithful lion, from whose paw, legend says, he removed a thorn. But I have no loyal lion for company, and I am not producing any valuable work, so the parallel to St. Jerome ends rather quickly. Nor am I given to extreme penances, and, God forgive me, I am much more troubled by my situation than my sins.
The great Erasmus has been working on a definitive edition of Jerome for years. The Basil printer, Johannes Amerbach, dreamed of producing a beautiful edition of Jerome as the ultimate achievement of his printshop.
Sadly, Amerbach died, but his sons and his partner, Johann Froben, continue the work, and Erasmus has now joined his dream to theirs, so that there is much activity in Basel. Erasmus visited Basel last summer and met Froben, and now the work proceeds apace, with various scholars assisting on the Hebrew and Greek.
What I would give to be there, too. Even as a mouse hiding among the stacks of folios.
At last, I sigh, my daily round of discouraging thoughts completed, and drag myself upright to begin the tedious business of legal and administrative correspondence for this poor ungoverned bishopric.
But then, the sound of hoofbeats. . .
The marvelous painting of St. Jerome at Study is by Jason Sorley. View his gallery here.