JEROME AND THE LION
 JEROME was such a holy man that we have come nowadays to call him St. Jerome. With some other monks, he
built a monastery at Bethlehem, the place where Christ was born. Here he devoted himself to the
making of books and the writing of letters, as well as to good deeds for the people in the
He and his brethren were very poor, having sold everything they had and given much of it away to
those in need. Some said to him, "Brother Jerome, what will you do after all your money is gone?" He
replied, "I have no fear of the future. What I give away now will come back to me in my old age."
One day he was sitting in his cell with some other monks when a lion entered the door. The
 monks arose in great fright, some of them jumped out of the window and others hid themselves as best
they could. Jerome sat quietly and waited to see what the lion would do. The great beast looked
around doubtfully and then limped toward Jerome, holding up his paw.
Jerome took the lion's paw in his hand, seeing that it was badly swollen. At length, he discovered a
thorn stuck in the soft pad of the lion's foot, which must have given the shaggy beast a great deal
of pain. Jerome managed to pull out the thorn with a pair of pincers. He then bathed the lion's paw
with warm water in which he had put some herbs and tied a linen rag around it to protect it from the
dirt. The look of pain vanished from the lion's eyes and he lay down at Jerome's feet.
Jerome expected him to leave, but the lion showed no such intention. He shook his tail and looked
into the face of his benefactor as if to say, "I have found a good place and a good friend and I
intend to stay."
Jerome pointed to the door, but the lion shook his tail again and took no notice. The other monks
came back and saw what had happened. Jerome turned to the lion and said to him, "If you have made up
your mind to live with us, you
 must do as the rest of us. You cannot live here in idleness. If you want to become a monk you must
work. Are you willing to stay on those terms?"
The lion waved his tail and shook his paw as if to say, "Yes, I am going to stay and am willing to
work as soon as my paw gets well."
Jerome then said to him, "If you stay with us it will be your duty to accompany my donkey to the
forest every day and protect her from robbers and wolves while she brings back firewood for the
monastery." Again the lion waved his tail as if he understood, and agreed to his part of the
In a few days the lion's foot was well and he began his duties. Every morning the donkey started out
to the forest accompanied by an old man who was to gather wood. The lion went along and kept watch
on all sides for danger to his charges. While the old man gathered the fagots and loaded them into
panniers on the donkey's side, the lion would lie on the ground, seeming to say, "You can work in
safety, for I have my eye on all the forest and nothing can hurt you." When the panniers were full
the lion guarded the donkey and the old man back to the monastery, where all three of them were fed
and their day's work was over.
 One morning, however, the sun was very hot in the forest and while the old man was gathering wood,
the lion lay down and fell asleep. Two men who had been watching them through the bushes crept out
and bound a cloth around the old man's mouth and slipped a bag over the donkey's head, so that they
could not utter a sound. Then the robbers took them away, leaving the lion asleep on the ground.
When the lion awoke he stretched himself and yawned and looked around for the old man and the
donkey. "It must be late," said he to himself. "I wonder what has become of the donkey and the old
man; they must have wandered away somewhere." The lion searched everywhere for his charges, but
could not find them.
At last he came across some footprints in the soft earth. He saw so many footprints that he knew the
robbers had seized the old man and the donkey while he was asleep and carried them off. "Ah, woe is
me!" cried the lion. "I have betrayed my trust. What shall I say to the holy father who cured my
foot?" With a heavy heart, the lion crept slowly home.
When he entered the cell of his master, Jerome turned to him and said, "Why are you alone and where
is the old man and the donkey?" The lion
 bowed to the earth and hung his tail between his legs.
"You have eaten the donkey and the old man," said Jerome, "and have betrayed my trust. Now you must
take the place of the donkey, wear the panniers on your back and some one will drive you every day
to the forest for wood." And so it was. The king of beasts had to take the place of the lost donkey
and every day was driven to the forest and back again with wood for the monastery.
The summer passed and the spring came. Caravans went by with camels laden with rich products of
Damascus on their way to Egypt. Sometimes the caravans would stop at the monastery for water and
rest. One day the lion was standing near a group of trees while he was being loaded with wood for
the monastery. The crackling of twigs caused him to turn around. He saw a caravan come up with great
camels loaded with goods, and the donkey with them.
Recognizing his old friend, the lion gave a bound forward, overthrowing the man who was loading him,
scattering the wood in every direction. The donkey leaped forward to greet his friend and they met
with every demonstration of joy and affection. The lion then drove all the camels and drivers before
him to the monastery, and if one of them
 looked around, he showed his teeth and growled so fiercely that they trembled with fear.
In this way they reached the monastery. The lion and the donkey went at once to the cell of Jerome,
where the master was engaged in copying a manuscript. The lion roared, the donkey brayed, and the
master ran out to see what was the matter. He recognized the donkey, and seeing that the lion had
gathered all the camel drivers, he turned to them and said, "You are the ones who have stolen my
donkey and taken away my old man. I shall have you punished and I shall ask forgiveness of this
noble beast for the injustice I have done him."
The drivers fell upon their knees and confessed that they had stolen the donkey and carried away the
old man. They cried out in alarm, "Holy Father, spare our lives! The old man is safe in Damascus and
here is your donkey. Do not allow the lion to devour us, but rather forgive our sins and let us
depart in peace."
Jerome thought a while and said to the camel drivers, "I shall spare your lives and you may depart,
but let this be a lesson to you not to take that which does not belong to you." The lion and the
donkey listened very attentively, and saw the camel drivers depart. They were satisfied with this
arrangement and went off together to
 get their food and then lie down and tell each other of their adventures.
And this is the reason why in all the pictures of St. Jerome we can see a lion lying contentedly at
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