Today is the feast of St. Jerome. He is a Doctor of the Church and is best known for his compilation of the Latin translation of Scripture, known as the Vulgate. As he was a prolific scribe & author, the Curt Jester has suggested we bloggers take him as our patron - I'm all for it.
But what really connected me to St. Jerome is this quote from a letter he wrote to an old friend back in Rome:
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 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 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.
This is a man who wasn't afraid to share his struggles - like St. Paul says, he boasts in his weaknesses. It's a useful tactic to combat habitual sins, such as my own battle with pornography & the "M" word. Secrecy only increases its hold on us. Openness lets our Christian brethren pray for us and keep us accountable, but moreso makes us humble, and forces us to rely on God for our strength.
So you may be wondering, how goes my battle? It's still a hard fight, and I'm pretty sure it will be to my dying day. Every time I fall, I'm reminded that I can never be invincible. If I tell myself that I've got things under control, that's when I'm in the most danger.
The most helpful advice I've received has been, unsurprisingly, in the sacrament of Confession. I've been encouraged to ask God to love me, especially in those times of heaviest temptation. When I do it, it works every time.
And I take a lot of comfort in knowing that St. Jerome struggled with fantasies of dancing Roman maidens. He suggests fasting... something totally foreign to my Protestant upbringing. Not that Protestants - or even Free Methodists - don't fast, but if they ever tapped into the full graces available through it, nobody ever taught me how to do the same.
Ah, St. Jerome - pray for me!