Historical story

Give your child to your mother-in-law. Master of asceticism educational tips

Last updated:2022-07-25

From today's perspective, Saint Jerome had some really controversial views on marriage, virginity and the role of women. This Father of the Church did not fail to share with the world his thoughts on the upbringing of children. Editors of "children's" magazines would probably bristle at the mere thought of his methods.

We visited Saint Jerome in the pages of "Historical Curiosities" at the very beginning of their activity. In the text "Dirt, stench and virginity. Master of asceticism of advice for women ”, we described the approach of the famous master of continence to the life of women. From today's perspective, his recommendations undoubtedly seem controversial. However, in the case of Jerome's contemporaries, they were not only unpleasant, but also a respected standard of behavior for consecrated virgins (and women in general)!

The fledgling saint material

Jerome did not stop at counseling women. When a girl was born in the family of his friend - Paula Rzymianka, who was vowed to consecrated virginity before birth, the ascetic enthusiastically set about creating an educational program for the little girl.

Consecrated virgins (according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church):“From apostolic times, Christian virgins, called by the Lord to consecrate themselves to Him in a greater freedom of heart, body and spirit. They made decisions with the Church's approval to live in a state of virginity "for the kingdom of heaven."

I expected him to elaborate on the merits of strict fasting, a total ban on bathing and the lack of sleep on the way to salvation, and meanwhile Jerome at times shows the makings of a pretty good educator, although he unceremoniously plagiarizes the pagan rhetorician Quintilian.

The girl dedicated to God was named Paula (after the grandmother of Paula Rzymianka). It was the child of Taxotius, who married the daughter of the Roman priest, Leta. One of the saint's first educational recommendations is related to the maternal grandfather. According to Hieronim, as soon as she grows up, the girl should throw her arms around her grandfather's neck and sing joyful Hallelujah! in order to convert him. But let's move on to the actual program developed for Paula.

At the beginning, you should choose a suitable, experienced and educated teacher for your child. He should skillfully use praise and punishments in order not to alienate the girl from education, which would affect the further process. Thanks to his appropriate approach, the little one should feel irresistible joy from successes, and in the case of failures and mistakes - sadness. In addition to the method of a small stick and a large carrot (this, in simplified terms, the idea of ​​Hieronymus comes down to), an element of competition should be introduced to the education of the future consecrated virgin. It is very interesting that, according to an expert living in the 4th century, competition among children learning together stimulates the desire to acquire knowledge and the pursuit of the best possible results.

Instead of Ala has a cat list of prophets

From an early age, a girl should learn letters. According to the saint, the letters should be made of e.g. ivory. Well, you can see, according to an ascetic (sic!), It was a widely available material, perfect for the production of toys for toddlers. But never mind the material - let's move on to its applications.

Saint Jerome is teaching ... his educational theories?

Little Paula should play with these letters and learn about their appearance, sound and sequence while playing. Moreover, the teacher often has to rearrange these little sculptures and put them together in any order. When the girl learns the letters, she should slowly start accustoming her hand to writing. It turns out that there is no point in giving your child the wax-coated tablets that were used in the Roman school at the time.

It is best to engrave the letters as carefully as possible on the board. The child is to run the stylus along the furrows and learn to draw the most beautiful signs. Lest it be too easy, we can safely forget about the primers that we know from primary school.

A few-year-old child instead of learning Ala has a cat, Ewa cleans up toys whether Iza is looking for a needle , the letters are to be composed of the names of the patriarchs and prophets, according to the lists compiled by the evangelists. What is very important, she must not be given (even by accident!) any works of pagan authors (as if Jerome himself in his advice did not plagiarize the almost identical recommendations of Quintilian contained in the work "On the education of the speaker").

The domestic service that is to accompany Paula is a separate issue. The girl is to be surrounded by people who speak the best possible language so that she does not acquire bad habits. Even more important here, however, is the example of the parents. After all, we know the old proverb about how the shell becomes soaked when young ... We can easily translate it into language learning - bad habits from childhood are very difficult to fix later.

Saint Jerome and Paula.

Speaking of the child's environment, it is worth mentioning its inseparable companion - the nanny. Paula's nurse should be a model of virtue, but above all, she should be far from all slander (drunkenness and debauchery must be completely alien to her!). Such tips as to the selection of a girl's companion are not surprising at all. As for Paula herself, she must be kind to the whole family, and her main task is to "bomb" her grandfather - a pagan priest - with Christianity, even in case of his clear opposition.

The advice of Saint Jerome, cited so far, regarding the upbringing and education of a child, seems to be quite ordinary, and in part even in line with today's standards (e.g. learning through play). Now, however, we come to considerably more abstract guidelines.

A mini-mini nun?

From an early age, little Paula should be kept away from fancy robes, jewels and cosmetics. At first glance, thanks to her attire, her calling is to be visible. St. Hieronim warns the girl's mother not to burn her hair in order to style it, because in this way it will bring Hell to hell on her. A tough case - an ascetic tries to make a mini-mini nun out of a small child. Or maybe put on a hair shirt right away? Toddler's delicate skin will surely be pleased! But let's go further:it's time for a diet.

Today, there is a lot of talk about the role of shared meals in integrating the family, about building the parent-child relationship thanks to the whole family sitting at the table. Taxotius, his wife Leta and their daughter Paula may forget about it.

The main source of information quoted in my text was a scientific article:T. Wnętrzak, Św. Hieronim - magister puellarum, "Annales Universitatis Paedagogicae Cracoviensis. Studia Historica ”, VIII (2009).

Saint Jerome forbids. From an early age, the girl is to sit down to a meal separated from her parents, so that the tasty and exquisite dishes that pass through the tables of these rich Romans do not arouse the appetite of the future consecrated virgin too much.

The "children's" magazines I have already mentioned write about the role of a balanced diet in the development of toddlers, but our ascetic has his own opinion on this subject. While she is small, Paula can eat a little meat from time to time and wet her mouth with wine, but when she grows up, the good will be over. The older girl is to eat more modestly.

One of his spiritual wards - the young Demetrias - Hieronim recommended that she should fast all the time, i.e. eat enough not to faint and be able to walk on her own, but not a bite more! It seems reasonable to suppose that the slightly older Paula was intended to follow an equally strict dietary regime.

Until I got acquainted with the views of Saint Jerome, I did not know that a decent hot bath causes the fire of carnal lust . Oh poor me, unconscious! Well, little Paula, even as a child, should not wash too often. When he grows up a little he has to stick to his head the principle "sponge and bathtub are your enemy" and that for the salvation of the soul the bathhouse should be avoided.

According to St. Jerome are men and have nasty characters and a pronounced propensity for debauchery, and lead women down the wrong path. This approach made him different from most Church Fathers.

Then who is worse?

Now will be the biggest problem - boys. Pauli is forbidden to meet representatives of the opposite sex, because they have nasty characters and a clear tendency to debauchery. A girl should avoid young men smiling at her like fire, lest they lead her astray sometimes. Generally speaking, on the characters of boys and girls, most Church Fathers took a slightly different opinion from our holy ascetic.

According to them, it was the woman who was the hotbed of all evil. Tertullian wrote: Women are unholy furies, wantons , St. Clement of Alexandria proclaimed: In a woman the mere awareness of her existence should cause shame while Bishop Maximus of Turin believed that The cause of all evil is a woman.

The only question is whether a toddler raised according to Saint Jerome's methods would not end up like this skull sometimes ...

Paula, as a bride destined for Christ, should hardly appear in public (except in the company of her mother). She is only allowed to talk to holy husbands, sworn virgins, parents and teachers. Hieronim also warns her against participating in any parties and weddings.

When the girl grows up, she no longer needs a nanny. Then she should be accompanied by appropriate, respectable women or girls like her. Pretty and alluring? Not at all! Their attire is to be miserable, their faces are pale, and their eyes are full of sadness. Let us add that the activities of Paula and her mournful crowd should be prayers, devotional vigilance and meditation on sacred books, which is entertainment just in time for a teenager!

Finally, a small summary of the reality of the "educational program for consecrated virgins" by our ascetic. Saint Jerome himself is aware that his recommendations are quite restrictive, therefore he doubts whether the girl's mother will live up to them.

The ideal solution seems to him to give the girl to raise her grandmother - Paula Rzymianka - and aunt Julia Eustochium. As soon as Leta weaned the baby from the breast, she is to hand it over to the aforementioned relatives. Apparently, detached from reality, Hieronim has nothing to do with the mother-child bond, because it is more important to bring up the material for a consecrated virgin than a little girl ...