Friday, June 30, 2006
Saint Jerome Emiliani
Jerome was born to a noble family of Venice, Italy. He loved the good life and spent his youth carelessly enjoying the pleasures of this world. When he grew up he became a soldier and was put in command of a fortress high in the mountains.
One day, his post was attacked by troops of Maximilian I. He was taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. Chained in that miserable prison, he had time to think about his life. He began to regret the careless way he had been living. He was sorry that he had thought so little about God and for wasting so many years living a wicked life.
Jerome promised the Blessed Mother that he would change his life if she would help him. His prayers were answered and by a miracle he was able to escape to safety. Jerome, with a grateful heart, went straight to a church. He hung his prison chains in front of Mary's altar.
After returning to Venice, he took charge of the education of his young nephews while he studied to be a priest. When he became a priest he was devoted to works of charity.
Plague and famine struck northern Italy. Jerome began feeding the sick and the hungry with whatever money he had. He was especially concerned about the many homeless orphan children he found in the streets. He rented a house for them, and gave them clothes and food. He taught them about Jesus and the Catholic faith.
Saint Jerome started a religious congregation of men called the Company of the Servants of the Poor. They would care for the poor, especially orphans, and would teach youth. He did all he could for the peasants. He would work with them in the fields and would talk to them of God's goodness while he worked by their side. He died while caring for plague victims in 1537.
Saint Jerome Emiliani was a gift to the people of his time and to all the Church. By totally turning his life around, he became an image of the love of God. He gave hope to those who were poor and abandoned. He is the Patron Saint of orphans and homeless children and we celebrate his feast on February 8 th.