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  • Fr. Scott Haynes

St. Jerome and the Lion's Paw

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

A Meditation for the Feast of St. Jerome

- September 30 -


St. Jerome was known for his fiery temper, especially when he encountered errors against the faith. When he heard of some bishop or priest teaching heresy, he would write off a stern letter of correction from the monastery in Bethlehem where he lived. His letters would even mock his opponents and incite them to anger. Our Lord loved that St Jerome corrected those in error. But it was not good that he did so with such anger. So, it seems Christ would correct St. Jerome’s anger is a clever way.

According to pious tradition, a lion came to the monastery in Bethlehem where St Jerome was living one day. The lion was limping and held out his paw to St. Jerome. Jerome discovered that the lion’s paw had a thorn in it, so he removed the thorn, cleaned the wound, and bound up the paw. In return, the grateful lion became a loyal companion, taking up residence at the monastery, and even doing his share of the chores.

One of the lion's tasks was to guard the donkey that carried firewood from the forest to the monastery. One day, a passing caravan stole the donkey. All of the monks except St. Jerome believed that the lion had eaten the donkey. As a punishment, the lion now had to do the donkey’s work. One day when the lion was hauling firewood, he saw the caravan, including the donkey, returning on their trade route. The lion chased the thieves to the monastery, where they were forced to give back the donkey. The lion had repaid Jerome for his trust and kindness.


Like the lion, St. Jerome also had something like a thorn in his paw. The thorn of uncontrolled anger caused him trouble, crippled him. As St. Jerome helped the lion to remove his thorn, St. Jerome relied on Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to remove the thorn of anger, so that he might be free at last, to walk in the peace of Christ which, indeed, surpasses all understanding. St Jerome pray for us.