Jerome loved travel, college life, and the Bible. He was born in Prague and excelled at the university there. Following graduation he traveled to England to study at Oxford, where he ran across the teachings of John Wycliffe, the “Morning Star of the Reformation.” The more he read, the more thrilled he became, and he returned to Prague with a heart full of new ideas. His zeal soon took him to other cities. He traveled to Jerusalem in 1403, Paris in 1404, Heidelberg in 1405, and Cologne in 1406. He visited the universities of Europe, sharing the Good News of justification by faith. He met King Sigismund of Hungary in 1410, discussing the vices of the clergy, trying to interest him in pre-Reformation ideas. He was in Moravia in 1412, then back in Prague. He traveled to Russia in 1413, and to Lithuania. Then in 1415 he came to the aid of his friend, John Hus.
Hus, another pre-reformer, had been hauled before the Council of Constance and condemned for his faith. Hus warned Jerome to stay away, but Jerome traveled to Constance anyway. He was seized on April 15, 1415, put in chains, and imprisoned. Hus, meanwhile, was burned at the stake.
Under great pressure Jerome temporarily wavered, reading a document on September 11, 1415 accepting the authority of the pope. Hoping to gain as much publicity as possible, the church placed him on trial at the Cathedral of Constance. They wanted all Bohemia to hear his recantation. Jerome, however, recomposed himself and defended his views with powerful eloquence. He renounced his recantation and proclaimed the innocence of Hus and his own adherence to the teachings of Wycliffe.
The enraged authorities proclaimed him a “cast off and withered branch.” They stuffed a paper cap, painted with red devils, on his head and led him to the very spot where Hus had been burned. A cheerful expression flooded Jerome’s face and he sang Easter hymns as the wood was piled around him. The fire consumed him slowly, and his ashes were tossed into the Rhine.
Be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear. This way you will make people ashamed for saying bad things about your good conduct as a follower of Christ. You are better off to obey God and suffer for doing right than to suffer for doing wrong. (1 Peter 3:15b-17)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). April 15.