Paths of Love: The Discernment of Vocation

Texts of Jerome cited in the book

Here you will find the texts of Jerome mentioned in the book Paths of Love.

  • That only those should marry who cannot control themselves otherwise

    • Then come the words, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn." (1 Corinthians 7:8). Having conceded to married persons the enjoyment of marriage and pointed out his own wishes, he goes on to the unmarried and to widows, sets before them his own practice for imitation, and calls them happy if they so remain. "But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry," just as he said before "But because of fornication," and "Lest Satan tempt you, because of your lack of self-control." And he gives a reason for saying "If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry," namely "It is better to marry than to burn." The reason why it is better to marry is that it is worse to burn. Let burning lust be absent, and he will not say it is better to marry. The word better always implies a comparison with something worse, not a thing absolutely good and incapable of comparison. It is as though he said, it is better to have one eye than neither, it is better to stand on one foot and to support the rest of the body with a stick, than to crawl with broken legs. What do you say, Apostle? I do not believe you when you say "Though I be rude in speech, yet am I not in knowledge." As humility is the source of the sayings "For I am not worthy to be called an Apostle," and "To me who am the least of the Apostles," and "As to one born out of due time," so here also we have an utterance of humility. You know the meaning of language, or you would not quote Epimenides (Titus 1:12), Menander (1 Corinthians 15:33), and Aratus (Acts 17:28). When you are discussing continence and virginity you say, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman"; "It is good for them if they abide even as I"; "I think that this is good by reason of the present distress"; and, "That it is good for a man to be so." When you come to marriage, you do not say it is good to marry, because you could not then add "than to burn"; but you say, "It is better to marry than to burn." If marriage in itself be good, do not compare it with fire, but simply say "It is good to marry." I suspect the goodness of that thing which is forced into the position of being only the lesser of two evils. What I want is not a smaller evil, but a thing absolutely good. (Against Jovinianus I, n. 9)
    • [Jerome may be surely counted as one of the most extreme in his defense of the value of virginity and celibacy, and in defending them, effectively describes marriage as a tolerable evil. Augustine consequently sets out to show clearly that marriage is properly a good.]

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