In 1968, Bob Dylan "Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine." Now, 40 years later, his friend the modern blues master and rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame inductee Dion DiMucci is singing of another saint. The hero of Dion's song "The Thunderer" on the 2007 release Son of Skip James is the irascible St. Jerome.

Jerome was born in northern Italy around A.D. 348 and died in Bethlehem around 420. A respected scholar and major champion of monasticism in the West, Jerome is best known as a Bible translator, having produced the standard Latin translation of Scripture that became known as the Vulgate. Church historian Justo Gonzalez writes that Jerome was "outstanding for his titanic and endless struggle with the world and with himself." Not only did he criticize and tangle with heretics but also other Christians such as John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Basil of Caesarea, and Augustine of Hippo. Augustine clashed with Jerome over his choice to translate the Old Testament from the original Hebrew rather than from the venerated Greek Septuagint. They later reconciled as friends and allies during the Pelagian controversy. Though Jerome's towering spirit was far from irenic, Gonzalez concludes that "his rigid façade hid a sensitive spirit."

But how did Jerome get from the dusty deserts of the 5th century to the 21st-century airwaves of American blues radio? One answer might be Dion DiMucci's personal journey. Many know Dion as the voice behind "The Wanderer" or as the one who turned down a seat on that fateful plane with Buddy Holly "the day the music died." He was famous enough in the 1960s to have his face appear on The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. That decade brought Dion both a love affair with blues music and a religious conversion. He went on to befriend leading evangelical pastors such as Chuck Swindoll and Greg Laurie in the 1980s. Then in the 1990s, the Italian-American rocker returned to the Roman Catholic Church filled with Scripture and ready to tackle tradition. In a 2007 interview with the Wittenberg Door, Dion talked about the impact the church fathers had on him: "It was wonderful, man, just to read this ancient wisdom that came down through the Church, for the last 2,000 years … It's just beautiful, it's like a love letter to me." Today, well into his 60s, he ministers to prisoners and addicts and continues to release hugely popular albums.

On a visit to Rome, Dion mentioned a quotation of Jerome's to his friend Mike Aqualina: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." Aqualina responded, "The Thunderer"—alluding to a poem by Phyllis McGinley, who in the late 1950s published poems on several famous saints. That day began Dion's deeper acquaintance with Jerome, culminating in a musical tribute to a man who wasn't "a plaster sort of saint." McGinley's lines ("God's angry man, his crotchety scholar …") form the basis of Dion's song. His Jerome is a complex man full of contradictions, willing to shake up his own world, and then everyone else's, for the sake of his Master.

In a recent New York Times interview, Dion described what attracted him to Jerome: "He was a pretty uppity guy. He was intolerant. He was so bright; he was like, 'C'mon, get over it!' He couldn't be around people so he lived in this cave. … I thought you had to be humble to become a saint, but a priest told me it takes all kinds to make it to heaven. I figure he's like us, a little like us." These ideas are reflected in Dion's additions to McGinley's original poem, especially in the third verse: "You can't get through life just being nice—ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ," and "Love without truth is just sentimental—truth without love is sterile." Jerome is an iconoclast in an age of political correctness and despairing relativism masked by tolerance.

Dion's "The Thunderer" echoes his friend Bob Dylan's dream of Augustine, in which Dylan speaks through the fiery church father to call for modern people to wake from their complacent age, when "no martyr is among you now." Dion told the Wittenberg Door, "The blues is the naked cry of the human heart, apart from God. People are searching for union with God. They're searching to be home." How natural, then, to sing of Jerome, who "Worked to save / The world from the heathen; / Fled to a cave / For peace to breathe in, / Promptly wherewith / For miles around / He filled the air / With fury and sound."

Now more than ever, we need to hear voices like Dylan or Augustine, Dion or Jerome, who can gather up in "fury and sound," music and lyrics, the restlessness of our hearts and call us back to God. We need people who shake us up and challenge our complacency—who expose the neediness of the modern world and its yearning for something more.

John Lawrey is a graduate student at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.