Mea culpas aside, I must however keep to the 'feminine imperative' narrative and blame a man :-)
*Someone put me up to this. He set me a task I had never sought to undertake before, but which I relish because it is precisely the sort of daytime reverie I like to indulge in in my own personal time and space.
So, ahoy, descent into utter Madness we go (with a capital M)!
But first, a confession of sorts...
At Mass on 'Christi Himmelfahrt' or 'Auffahrt' as 'Ascension' is now known to me, the priest asked what I took at first to be a rhetorical question: 'Which period in The Church's calendar is the holiest of all?'
I smugly sat there thinking, 'but of course, 'Easter', when else?'
Turns out I was wrong. Apparently, the correct answer is....the ten days between Ascension and Pentecost!
Who'dda thunk? The holiest period in the Christian 'timetable' is now...
And here I am, a Christian woman, about to take a saint, a Doctor of the Church no less(!) to task about what he wrote 1700 years ago which offends my feminine sensibilities. :P
I feel a 'forgive me Father for I have sinned' coming on shortly...
With respect to the task at hand, I had been racking my brains for a few weeks now as to how to tackle my 'mission impossible'.
My brief was simply... a conversation with St. Jerome on his views on MGTOW.
Yes, St. Jerome, a saint of The Church thought 1700 years ago that men should not marry. That women were nothing but trouble.
And here I was thinking this was a modern problem :-)
I didn't get anywhere with this project until a plaque (of a poem by Christophe Plantin) hanging above my old piano startled me a few weeks ago. I have had this plaque ever since an old french-speaking relative of mine gave it to me around 15 years ago. Years of piano practice, and I never even so much as glanced at it. Now that I no longer live in my childhood home, I saw it as though for the first time, with fresh eyes, so to speak.
I provide the french version, because I think it is beautiful: I highlight the part which gripped me the most:
Un jardin tapissé d'espaliers odorans,
Des fruits, d'excellent vin, peu de train, peu d'enfans,
Posseder seul sans bruit une femme fidèle,
N'avoir dettes, amour, ni procès, ni querelle,
Ni de partage à faire avecque ses parens,
Se contenter de peu, n'espérer rien des Grands,
Régler tous ses desseins sur un juste modèle,
Vivre avecque franchise et sans ambition,
S'adonner sans scrupule à la dévotion,
Dompter ses passions, les rendre obéissantes,
Conserver l'esprit libre, et le jugement fort,
Dire son chapelet en cultivant ses entes,
C'est attendre chez soi bien doucement la mort.
And in English:
The happiness of this world
To have a comfortable house, clean and fair;
A walled garden lined with fragrant trees;
Fruit and fine wine, few servants and few children;
The only lover of a faithful wife;
No debts, no love-affairs, lawsuits nor feuds,
No wills to haggle out with relatives,
Simply content, dependent on no magnate,
And by a righteous rule to rule one's life;
To live in frankness, from ambition far;
With conscience clear devoted to devotion,
To tame one's passions until they obey,
To keep the spirit free and judgement strong,
Saying one's prayers while looking to one's pear-trees:
A kindly way at home to wait for Death.
I keep finding 'rules for a happy man to live by' everywhere I look these days...I even found one in Beethoven's music a while back, but this one seems to be the best blueprint of all.
So who was this Christophe Plantin?
According to Wikipedia, he was a french printer, a Catholic with humanistic tendencies (go figure). Significantly, he was intrumental in printing a lot of The Church's works, notably, those of St. Jerome.
I started to get excited when I noticed this.
After having read St. Jerome's 'Anti-Marriage rant' known as Adversus Jovinianus, Chapter 48, I suddenly got a sense of déjà vu on seeing Christophe Plantin's words again after so many years.
And I think the reason the words in bold struck me so much was the very real sense that they seemed 'out of place' in a 'Manosphere' anthem such as this seemed to be. It seemed to me that Christophe Plantin (born in 1520), had taken these words out of the mouth of St. Jerome, but had added his own little twist. Afterall, Plantin was a married man with six kids!
So what could I possibly say to The Venerable St. Jerome?
Here is a transcript of our conversation, which admitttedly took place only in my head.
ST: St. Jerome, I come before you with a sincere request.
SJ: (Polishes halo, strokes beard, squints at me).
ST: I would like to understand your work 'Against Jovinianus', especially Chapter 48. There is plenty in there that I do not understand. I wish to understand more.
SJ: (Picks up feather pen, adjusts robe): What I wrote in 'Against Jovinianus' is not meant to be understood by mere mortals of the female kind. It is what it is.
ST: (Retains composure, frantically fishing for an alternaive approach): It is by listening to what the elders of The Church teach that the rest of God's flock may be saved. I have no-one to turn to but you on this specialist matter. No other saint, it seems to me, understands this particular issue more than you. Hear me! Engage with me!
SJ: (Picks nose and flicks residue in direction of a dove, who dodges): I am hearing you. Speak, my child.
ST: I thank you, Your Holiness.
SJ: Call me Jerome. Or Jerry.
ST: (smiles). Jerome. Nice to meet you. (Shakes hand. Surprisingly warm hands for someone who has been dead a few hundred years).
ST: Why do you wish to deprive your fellow man of a companion 'in this vale of tears' in the manner in which God ordained? Why do you only see women as evil, unclean, unworthy?
SJ: (Irritated): I do not!
ST: This is what you say, Jerome. Right here - 'We read of a certain Roman noble who, when his friends found fault with him for having divorced a wife, beautiful, chaste, and rich, put out his foot and said to them, "And the shoe before you looks new and elegant, yet no one but myself knows where it pinches." '
Another example: 'Whole tragedies of Euripides are censures on women. Hence Hermione says, "The counsels of evil women have beguiled me." '
Yet another: 'In all the bombast of tragedy and the overthrow of houses, cities, and kingdoms, it is the wives and concubines who stir up strife. Parents take up arms against their children; unspeakable banquets are served; and on account of the rape of one wretched woman Europe and Asia are involved in a ten years' war.'
Why do you only see the bad in women?
SJ: I only report what I see, ST.
ST: Yes, fair is thine word. But were there no better examples than the ones you chronicle in this book of yours? Were there no good women around you?
SJ: (Shakes head, sighs): You miss the point of my book!
ST: (Incredulous): But how? I quote back to you what you yourself say!
SJ: Yes, and what you quote back to me is taken out of context!
ST: (Inhales): So, explain me...this is precisely why I come to you.
SJ: There is a reason I wrote this book for men. A man would have understood what I wrote. Chapter 48 is merely a prelude to Chapter 49, in which I outline the rules for both men and women, in which can be found marital happiness if indeed a man must marry. In the instruction of a man, he must understand the risks of this undertaking that marriage is. The language I use is severe, yes. But it is the language that a man understands. For it is he who takes on the burden of a wife and family. I soften not my words for him, for in so doing, I fail him. I tell him what he needs to know. If after everything he hears from me he chooses to marry, be it on his head the consequences of his actions. A man must be responsible for the decisions of his own self and his household. This is not something I expect a woman however intelligent to understand.
ST: Forgive me, Jerome. I do not intend to belittle your advice to men. If it is not contrary to your principles, I still seek to understand. Is it bad for me to try to understand you?
SJ: Not at all. But you tread on dangerous ground. This path is not flowery. It is not pretty. It may not be safe for a woman. Do you wish to proceed nonetheless?
ST: By all means if it is not sinful so to do!
SJ: (Laughs): No, not sinful, no. Foolhardy, yes.
ST: Then so be it. I shall be a fool in the quest for knowledge!
SJ: So be it, then. Your wish is my command.
ST: Thank you. May we shake hands on that again?
SJ: (Waves a way my hand): No more handskaes. Once was enough.
ST: (Sharp intake of breath, mournful look): OK. I get it. This won't be pretty.
SJ: Exactly. Let's keep to the script. A man must get over his petty joys and pleasures and see the world as it is, before he takes on the responsibility of wife and child(ren). It is the essence of masculinity. Even with faith, this is a pre-requisite, for to do otherwise is a recipe for failure. From whence I get my various examples outlined in Chapter 48. Capisci?
ST: You are Italian-speaking, St. Jerome!
SJ: (Shakes head): Did you not know I lived in Rome, ST?
ST: (Smiles, then lightbulb moment): Ah! I see! So you are giving examples of where men can go wrong!
SJ: Exactly! See? You can be intelligent when you want to be.
ST: I see your line of thinking now. But I have to admit, it wasn't so clear reading Chapter 48.
SJ: You were never meant to read Chapter 48 in isolation.
SJ: In Chapter 49, I give advice to young women to be chaste. This is the best way to persuade men to marry them. Do you know what chastity in a young woman leads to for a man who marries, ST?
ST: (Pause, pause, pause, another lightbulb moment): Une femme fidèle!
SJ: (Mock bow): Exactement! Well done, ST. This is the point your married friend Christophe Plantin was making when he lists the characteristics of a happy life for a man. Christophe found a femme fidèle. If he hadn't, he would have written his own 'Against Jovinianus'.
ST: (Mock surprise): How did you know about Plantin?
SJ: Come on now...I am a saint. I am immortal. Honestly, you mortals!
SJ: I am not against marriage, ST. I am very much for holy marriages. It is precisely because I see that many men are not yet ready for marriage, and indeed many women are chronically unsuitable for marriage that I give the next best advice: do not marry: seek an alternative path to salvation. The next generation is dependent on the sanctity of marriage. Done wrong, an unholy marriage is a breeding ground for devil's troops. I say it clearly in the first paragraph of Chapter 48: 'And shall he desire children and delight himself in a long line of descendants, who will perhaps fall into the clutches of Antichrist, when we read that Moses and Samuel preferred other men to their own sons, and did not count as their children those whom they saw to be displeasing to God?'
A good marriage produces 'soldiers for christ'.
ST: (Nodding): Because a holy marriage is a sacrament. An unholy marriage is just another path to hell...
SJ: Well, put that way, it seems harsh, but yes. You are beginning to get the hang of this.
ST: You are a good teacher.
SJ: They didn't elect me 'Doctor of The Church' for nothing, you know!
ST: True dat!
SJ: So, now do you understand? I teach what is right, for men. You women can also learn something from me. The details you can learn from the virtuous women of The Church. Of which there are many.
ST: Yes, like Our Lady.
SJ: Well, she is the best. But there are others. Saintly women dead or alive are everywhere.
ST: I know...
SJ: Good. Follow them. Listen to them. Watch what they do. You can't go wrong by doing that.
ST: Thank you Jerome.
SJ: (Yawns): Anytime. Now I must get some shut-eye. Not a bed of roses being a saint you know. Everyday, I get some mortal upstart calling me up to interrogate me about one of my books...
ST: (Downcast): But I already apologised....I didn't mean to...!
SJ: Relax, ST. Just teasing. You need to toughen up. (Winks).
ST: (Smiles, puts hands up in air): Ok, Ok, I get it.
SJ: Over and out, ST. Go in peace. Have faith.
ST: Thank you, Jerome. Greetings to your fellow saints.
SJ: Thumbs up.
End of conversation.
So there we have it. My conversation with the patron saint of MGTOW.
Turns out he may not be as misogynistic as I first thought. He is an alright dude, really. Maybe he could have made a great husband for some chick back in 370 AD?
*Someone may or may not choose to identify himself in the comments.