Philander Chase vs. Jerome

Today in Lent Madness it's the long-anticipated Battle of the Curmudgeons: Philander Chase vs. Jerome. To put it into rhyme (and demonstrating a nuanced, if gender exclusive, use of French), "I do declare, this is not a touchy-feely pair, mon frere." Will the Kenyon College mafia again rise to put Philander over the top? Or will Jerome's jihad put an end to this Cinderella story? Many plot lines, but only one will make it to the Elate Eight.

Yesterday, Mary Magdalene trounced Joan of Arc 74% to 26% to advance to the next round. Make sure to check out the updated bracket courtesy of our unsung Bracket Czar and Celebrity Blogger Adam Thomas. This beautiful bracket even got top billing in yesterday's Houston Chronicle article about Lent Madness.

As this is the last clash of the week, we do wish everyone luck in dealing with their Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) this weekend. If you're feeling particularly lost, feel free to call the Lent Madness Counseling Hotline (LMCH) 24-hours a day. You might recognize the digits as you dial since they're quite similar to Scott's home number. Lent Madness insomniacs are encouraged to contact the LMCH at all hours of the night -- just ask for "Scott." (Please note that after-hours calls may be transferred to our Hingham call center.) And we'll see you all bright and early Monday morning as the Round of the Saintly Sixteen continues with Enmegahbowh vs. David Oakerhater.

“Well, this will do!” exclaimed Bishop Philander Chase upon seeing the “landscape of unsurpassed loveliness and beauty” that would become the site of Kenyon College near Owl Creek in Knox County, Ohio. Lawyer Henry B. Curtis recorded Chase saying these words, his way of expressing “delight and satisfaction.”

This exclamation seems to be as laconic as Bishop Chase was wont to become; indeed, he subscribed diligently to the lengthy and complex sermon, which, to be sure,was the style of the day (making it difficult for this author to pick out quotations for you, dear reader). In preaching at the consecration of three other bishops, one moment stands out. Perhaps the Bishop was thinking about the vista of Kenyon when he preached,

“Once more: not only in the main and leading features of the Law and the Prophets do we see the illustration of the truth contained in the words of the text, but the same appears in those things which, were it not for the importance of the subject, might be deemed of small moment; the revelation of God, in this respect, being like his works in nature. It is not only in the sun, in the moon and in the planetary system, and the vast order of the Universe, that the wisdom, the power and the goodness of God appear: but even the flowers of the field in their minutest examination, by microscopic glasses, equally gratify the taste for divine knowledge in every humble and diligent inquirer.”

In another sermon, this time preached by a young Chase at the institution of another priest, the soon-to-be pioneer detailed the mettle of a preacher:

“If [congregants] are commanded to hear and receive God's word, we are bound faithfully to preach it to them: to which end, two things are necessary; first, that we ourselves know and understand the word which we preach; and the second is, that we have fortitude to declare it. The former cannot be attained, without much study and devout application; and the latter requires that we bear ever in mind whose ambassadors we are, and to whom we stand accountable. Let us, then, with unremitting prayer to God, for the aid of his Holy Spirit, apply ourselves to the study of our BIBLES; and to everything, which may lead us righty to understand them, that we be not ‘novices:’ and let us take care that we never sacrifice truth or duty unto popularity; that we deserve not the shameful epithet of ‘pleasers;’ two characters utterly inconsistent with the office which we bear, and the vows which are upon us.”

In the previous examination of Chase’s life, many were dismayed by his seeming cavalier treatment of his consumptive wife. Whether or not the move to Ohio somehow precipitated Mary’s death, that Chase loved both Mary and his second wife Sophia should not be in doubt. We finish on an intimate note, the conclusion of a letter from Philander to Sophia: “I write by a poor dim hogs lard lamp, which, shining askance on my paper, will hardly permit me to say how faithfully I’m your affectionate Husband. P. Chase”

-- Adam Thomas

Jerome (c.347- 420) was the most famous Biblical scholar of ancient Christianity. Paintings of him often include, oddly, a lion. That frequent zoological addition refers not to Jerome’s curmudgeonliness but to the legend that a lion once limped into his monastery in Bethlehem and became his friend after he removed a thorn from the lion’s paw. When the monastery’s donkey mysteriously vanished, the other monks accused the lion of eating it. However, the lion eventually found the donkey in the caravan of the merchants who stole it and proved his innocence.

That same theme of friendship appears at the conclusion of Jerome’s letter in the year 374 to Rufinus the Monk:

“However, to return to the point from which I set out, I beseech you do not let me pass wholly out of sight and out of mind. A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept. Let those who will, allow gold to dazzle them and be borne along in splendor, their very baggage glittering with gold and silver. Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price. The friendship which can cease has never been real. Farewell in Christ.”

Finally, here’s another interesting quote from Jerome’s preface to the third book of his commentary on Galatians:

“How few there are who now read Aristotle. How many are there who know the books, or even the name of Plato? You may find here and there a few old men, who have nothing else to do, who study them in a corner. But the whole world speaks the language of our Christian peasants and fishermen, the whole world re-echoes their words. And so their simple words must be set forth with simplicity of style; for the word simple applies to their words, not their meaning. But if, in response to your prayers, I could, in expounding their epistles, have the same spirit which they had when they dictated them, you would then see in the Apostles as much majesty and breadth of true wisdom as there is arrogance and vanity in the learned men of the world. To make a brief confession of the secrets of my heart, I should not like anyone who wished to understand the Apostle to find a difficulty in understanding my writings, and so be compelled to find someone to interpret the interpreter.”

-- Neil Alan Willard


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98 comments on “Philander Chase vs. Jerome”

  1. I declare. That picture of Bishop and Mrs Chase is most diverting. Not voting just yet. Leaning toward Jerome.

    1. That picture of Bishop and Mrs. Chase, followed by a segment of his sermon, persuaded me to vote for Jerome. The picture and his sermon exuded vinegar!

  2. Come on you Kenyon College folks and do it again. I had hoped Thomas Merton would bump off Jerome, but he's gone, so it will be up to the fellow with the funny name. Jerome doesn't deserve to make it into the Elate 8. He probably wouldn't approve of elation.

    1. Come on! Jerome had a lion for a friend. That shows a certain amount of quirkiness. And Jerome's writing is MUCH clearer than Bishop Chase's. As I worked in a diocesan office, typing Bishop-ly sermons was part of my job. Bishop Chase's would NOT have been easy to follow--just sayin'.

    2. Having a hired claque to stuff the ballot box rather spoils the fun for at least one of us.

  3. Oh my - I think P. Chase and St. Paul had the same grammar teacher 🙂
    (Paul's translations aside)

  4. Two very crabby guys. But Bishop Chase is our crabby guy. He was the first Rector of a parish I served for nine years.

  5. Easy! Even if Jerome was famous for having a bad temper, which I do not like; he is the patron of translators since he devoted his life to the translation of the Septuagint and created what was known later as the Vulgata. Since I am a translator by education and since Jerome’s feast is celebrated on September 29, still the month in which I was born, my vote is for him.

    1. He is also the patron of librarians and archivists! He kept one of the grandest personal libraries of the time of both Christian and pagan works. I bet he ran a tight library - no noise bleeding headsets or video games there...Go Jerry!

  6. If a sermon must be translated in order to be understood, .....well ?....need I go on? Jerome was not only kind, a virtue sorely lacking in too many who should have paid more attention to their mamas during their formative years, he was also understandable. The same cannot be said of Chase who may indeed have founded Kenyon....whenever he could be understood as to his plans. The wife looks to have been long-suffering for a loooooooong time. Jerome treated the lion better than Chase apparently treated the first wife. Of course, she couldn't pose a threat to his life as she hadn't the strength to do so ! On with Jerome !

  7. I love that first quote Adam provides us in his piece on Philander Chase today...for a purported curmudgeon, Chase had a wonderful appreciation for the beauties of the natural world, and on this gorgeous spring day, that gets my vote!

  8. "and so their simple words must be set forth with simplicity of style; for the word simple applies to their words, not their meaning"... Jerome gets my vote.

  9. Anyone who can (correctly) use the word "askance" in a letter to his wife is getting my vote.

  10. There's just something about a guy who feels the need to sign his last name when writing to his wife....and I'm not sure what that something is. Still, I can't get the "Bishop Chase Room" at Trinity, Columbus OH (my childhood parish) out of my head. Keep Chasin' that Golden Halo, Phil!

  11. Come on. This is too easy. The guy hangs out with a companion lion and preaches the words of Plato and Aristotle as simple, powerful and misunderstood? Done and done. Philanderer falls to Jerome today.

    1. Warner, my interpretation is that Jerome was talking about the style of writing in the Scriptures.

      1. Yes, Martin, me too! "But the whole world speaks the language of our Christian peasants and fishermen, the whole world re-echoes their words. And so their simple words must be set forth with simplicity of style; for the word simple applies to their words, not their meaning."

    1. He seems to have been quite the Renaissance Man:

      "He built the College, built the dam
      He milked the cow, he smoked the ham,
      He taught the classes, rang the bell,
      And spanked the naughty freshmen well.
      He taught the classes, rang the bell,
      And spanked the naughty freshmen well."

  12. Philander Chase. You people need to read my FB status update. I'm completely serious about that.

    Scott Hankins, Vicar of 60 square miles of NE Arizona.

  13. Are you planning to sue the Houston Chronical for libel--they called you two "friends!"? I know you are de jure non-combatants for Lent, but clearly that's a penance for both of you!

  14. Is the rumor true that Lent Madness will be resurrected under a new name starting Easter Monday?

    1. Ooh, I hope so--Eastertide is the BEST time to study/think about/begin to emulate the saints! What about it, SEC?

  15. Not only his quote about where the wisdom, power and goodness of God appear, but when he writes, "Let us, then, with unremitting prayer to God, for the aid of his Holy Spirit, apply ourselves to the study of our BIBLES; and to everything, which may lead us righty to understand them, that we be not ‘novices:’ and let us take care that we never sacrifice truth or duty unto popularity..." make me lean toward Philander. However, I love what Jerome writes about friendship in his letter to Rufinus, and was delighted that the story of the thorn in the lion's paw is attributed to Jerome!.........jury is still out on these two.

  16. No....the curse of Abraham Lincoln is at it again. How can you pit poor Bishop Chase against Jerome. Bishop Chase was the uncle of Salmon Chase the U. S. Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln later becoming the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court replacing the reviled Taney. Unfortunately Chase was an almost contender against Lincoln in 1864 so his name was clouded by that event putting a curse against him for thinking about running against St. Lincoln. This family was one of the great anti-slavery families of Ohio and to give Bishop Chase fair play some mention should have been made of this.

  17. Anyone who understands Hopi and Vietnam really ought to be voting for Philander Chase, with the blessing of Jerome.

  18. (not the Noel who commented previously today) I cannot understand how anyone could name a child Philander and Chase - what a terrible thing to live with! I, too, would vote for the lion, but think that Jerome is the closest I can get to that. Hmmm......

  19. Not sure who I'm voting for. The Vulgate has been responsible for a lot of wrong-headed crud, but I've always loved the lion stories. For people haranguing Chase:
    1) taking people to new climes, especially prairies or deserts, was the RECOMMENDED treatment for "consumptives" (a wide-ranging diagnosis, not exclusively T.B. until about 1940. The other common "treatment" was an ocean voyage.
    2) Until the 20th century, married couples usually signed letters to each other extremely formally, "Mr Chase", "Mrs Smith". They referred to each other in common conversation by title and last name (read 19th century novels). P. Chase's valediction in that letter is actually rather sweet, for the time, though not quite as romance-y as John and Abigail Adams, a century earlier, addressing each other as "dearest friend".
    But I still don't know who I'm voting for.

    1. Katherine W., thank you for your historical and cultural comments! It's nearly impossible for "us 20/21st centurians" to grasp the language & meaning of people in earlier, especially much earlier, centuries. Jerry & Phil would need a lot of translation assistence should either appear in our time. (Just think about explaining 'feminism', 'electric lights', or 'oil change' ! ) I think, one of, our challenges is deciphering compound sentences with several dependent clauses, that were more common in earlier times.

  20. And apologies to grammar fiends about the missing closing parenthesis that should be after T.B.

  21. I too find I'm leaning toward the lion!
    But the point about signinghis last name on a letter to his wife...has me looking askance at ol' Phil.

  22. Jerome leaves me feeling glum whereas Chase may have been gloomy but at least he got outside every now and then. Plus, he's got that "Ohio" thing going on and I serve a Kenyon person or two in my congregation.