David Bonagura, Jr., recently published Jerome’s Tears: Letters to Friends in Mourning, making these poignant letters of consolation to friends mourning the loss of spouses, children, relatives, and friends available for the first time in English. Pope Benedict considered St. Jerome the Church’s greatest doctor. He translated the Bible from Greek to Latin around 400 AD, while taking care to correct the Old Testament using the Hebrew original.
Mr. Bonagura first read St. Jerome’s letters while working on a thesis for his graduate degree. “I thought Christian readers of all kinds could really benefit spiritually from Jerome’s approach to grief,” he says. Consolatory letters were a literary genre developed by the ancient Greeks, and in his letters, St. Jerome builds upon that framework, bringing the Christian worldview and the hope offered in Christ’s resurrection to the forefront.
The letters follow a format. “St. Jerome first urges unwavering confidence in Christ’s resurrection that has conquered death. Second, he says that mourners should not focus on the loss of the deceased, but on the gift that they had in that person. Third, he urges the bereaved to overcome their grief by pursuing a new path in Christ,” Mr. Bonagura says.
“Jerome does not hesitate to deal out ‘tough love’ to these recipients in their grief,” Bonagura says. “In every letter, he exhorts the recipient to let go of his or her grief and seize a new opportunity to serve the Lord more devoutly now that the deceased has passed on.”
What strikes him most about the letters is that they balance narrative, imagery, elegance, and precision. “He brilliantly wields Scripture in every letter, offering persons, images, stories, and wise sayings from both the Old and New Testaments to help comfort the bereaved,” Mr. Bonagura says.
In addition to teaching for CDU, Mr. Bonagura is also an adjunct professor of classical languages at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., and a Latin teacher at Regis High School in New York City. He was named a Eucharistic Fellow by The Cardinal Newman Society in September.
Jerome’s Tears: Letters to Friends in Mourning was published by Sophia Institute Press and can be purchased on Amazon or from Target.