A few of examples of Saint Jerome, of great fame, making me laugh.
Offering that there is really no excuse for his own slow responses to letters:
Shall I say, ”I wrote often, but the bearers of my letters were negligent?”
You will reply, ” Your excuse is the old one of all who fail to write.”
Shall I say, ”I could not find any one to take my letters?”
You will say that numbers of persons have gone from my part of the world to yours.
Criticizing the pathetic letter he received from a distant correspondent:
Why is it that, when we are separated by so great an interval of land and sea, you have sent me so short a letter?
Is it that I have deserved no better treatment, not having first written to you?
I cannot believe that paper can have failed you while Egypt continues to supply its wares. Even if a Ptolemy had closed the seas, King Attalus would still have sent you parchments from Pergamum, and so by his skins you could have made up for the want of paper. The very name parchment is derived from a historical incident of the kind which occurred generations ago.
What then? Am I to suppose the messenger to have been in haste? No matter how long a letter may be, it can be written in the course of a night.
Or had you some business to attend to which prevented you from writing? No claim is prior to that of affection.
Two suppositions remain, either that you felt disinclined to write or else that I did not deserve a letter.
He would rather a cranky letter than none at all:
Wake up, wake up, arouse yourself from sleep, give to affection at least one sheet of paper.
Amid the pleasures of life at home sometimes heave a sigh over the journeys which we have made together.
If you love me, write in answer to my prayer.
If you are angry with me, though angry still write.
I find my longing soul much comforted when I receive a letter from a friend, even though that friend be out of temper with me.
Even having nothing to say is no excuse:
…never at a loss for an excuse, you will perhaps declare that you had nothing to write. Had this been so, you should still have written to inform me of the fact.
Saint Jerome almost gets annoyed:
Now, unless I am mistaken, I have already sent you ten letters, affectionate and earnest, while you have not deigned to give me even a single line.
The Lord speaks to His servants, but you, my brother servant, refuse to speak to me.
Believe me, if reserve did not check my pen, I could show my annoyance in such invective that you would have to reply…
All quotes from The Complete Works of Saint Jerome, on Kindle, or free at this useful site of old Christian texts.