Friday, February 15, 2008

Saint Jerome Emiliani, Patron of Orphans & Abandoned Children

“Writing preserves the things of the past, teaches those of the present and prepares us for the things of the future. Although it is useful to us in every circumstance and various situations, it is more useful when, by narrating the history of the people of the past, it straightens and makes prudent and wise our deeds.”

I came across this passage in a biography of the great Saint Jerome Emiliani (1481 – 1537), patron of orphans and abandoned children, and it inspired me to get back to updating this blog. Saint Jerome inspired a lot of people, both in his own time and ever since.

He was very much a man of his time: from the ruling class in Venice, he enlisted in the army at fifteen in a time when Venice was fighting off most of the other armies of Europe. His last great battle was in 1511, against the forces of the Emperor Maximillian, and although his men were greatly outnumbered they made a valiant stand. In the end they were overrun and most of them slaughtered. Emiliani was taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. Kept in chains, starved and tortured, he had plenty of time to review his life and wonder why he had been spared. He prayed to God and the Blessed Mother. He was convinced it was she who unlocked his chains and allowed him to escape. He headed for a chapel in nearby Treviso where he left his chains on the altar.

Because of his bravery, he was appointed governor of Treviso, but after a few years he retired to devote the rest of his life to charity. He built orphanages all over northern Italy and founded an order of priests and brothers known in the United States as the Somascans who are dedicated to serving the poor, especially troubled youth. His feast day was formerly February 8 and is now July 20.

Jerome Emiliani has everything I love about the saints: bravery, courage and faith. His legacy lives on all over the world, including Connecticut where the Somascans have long operated a home for troubled boys.

No comments: