Saint of the Week
St. Jerome Emilani (1481-1537)
Feast Day: February 8
Jerome Emiliani was the son of wealthy Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo in the mountains near Treviso but was captured by Venetian forces on August of 1511. Until then, he didn't care much about God because he thought he could rely on his own strength and the strength of the other soldiers and weapons. But while chained in a dungeon, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. When he was finally able to escape, he hung his chains on a church wall in gratitude not only for being freed from physical prison but from his spiritual dungeon as well. After a short time as Mayor of Treviso, he returned to his home in Venice where he studied for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1518, the year of the spotted-fever plague.
The war may have been over but it was followed by the famine and plague, as well as the war's devastation. Thousands suffered in his beloved city. Jerome devoted himself to service again -- this time, not to the military but to the poor and suffering around him. He felt a special call to help the orphans who had no one to care for them. All the loved ones who would have protected them and comforted them had been taken by sickness or starvation. He would become their parent, their family.
Using his own money, he rented a house for the orphans, fed them, clothed them, and educated them. Part of his education was to give them the first known catechetical teaching by question and answer. But his constant devotion to the suffering put him in danger, too, and he fell ill from the plague himself. When he recovered, he had the ideal excuse to back away, but instead his illness seemed to take the last links of the chain from his soul. Once again he interpreted his suffering to be a sign of how little the ambitions of the world mattered.
He committed his whole life and all he owned to helping others. He founded orphanages in other cities, a hospital, and a shelter for prostitutes. This grew into a congregation of priests and brothers that was named after the place where they had a house: the Clerks Regular of Somascha. Although they spent time educating other young people, their primary work was always Jerome's first love -- helping orphans.
His final chains fell away when he again fell ill while taking care of the sick. He died in 1537 at the age of 56.
In His Footsteps:
Become a foster parent. Millions of children need the love and care of a foster family. Contact your local Family Services agency or Catholic Charities to find out how you can help.
Saint Jerome Emiliani, watch over all children who are abandoned or unloved. Give us the courage to show them God's love through our care. Help us to lose the chains that keep us from living the life God intended for us. Amen.
Beatified: 22 September 1747
Canonized: 16 July 1767
Patronage: abandoned people, orphans
Copyright 1996-2000 by Terry Matz. All Rights Reserved.