Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

One of the themes of Saint Jerome’s letters was that the Christian life is a battle, whether one chooses to fight it in the wilderness or in the city. He may have been temperamentally unsuited for the life of an ascetic in the wilderness, and he reported being tormented by his unquiet mind. He noted the struggle necessary in being in the world but not of it, and he wrote of priests and Christian women who had trouble living a true Christian life.

His answer to this problem was the monastic life, which he believed led to receipt of the highest heavenly prize, and this theme informs much of his writing. He urged men who wished to become priests to submit to monastic discipline before receiving ordination. In keeping with the value he placed on turning away from the world, he felt that marriage makes it difficult for a person to renounce the world and attain to perfect love of God. His chief objection to marriage was that it puts a husband or a wife, together with a mountain of worldly cares, between the soul and God. Virginity is nonattachment: As such it is essential for those who are determined in their desire to achieve perfection in the present life. Hence, he advised the young to remain virgins, and widows and widowers not to remarry.