Saint of the Day – 20 July – St Jerome Emiliani (1486–1537) Confessor, Layman, Founder of the Somascan Fathers, Apostle of the poor, orphans, the sick, Catechist, Founder of countless Orphanages, Teaching institutions and Homes for converted street woman, Apostle of prayer. He was Beatified in 1747 by Pope Benedict XIV and Canonised in 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. Patronages – Orphans and Abandoned Children
Jerome was bora at Venice, of the patrician family of the Emiliani and from his boyhood embraced a military life. At a time when the Republic was in great difficulty, he was placed in command of Castelnovo, in the territory of Quero, in the mountains of Tarviso. The fortress was taken by the enemy and Jerome was thrown, bound hand and foot, into a horrible dungeon. When he found himself thus destitute of all human aid, he prayed most earnestly to the Blessed Virgin, who mercifully came to his assistance. She loosed his bonds and led him safely through the midst of his enemies, who had possession of every road, till he was within sight of Tarviso. He entered the town; and, in testimony of the favour he had received, he hung up at the Altar of our Lady, to whose service he had vowed himself, the manacles, shackles and chains which he had brought with him.
On his return to Venice he gave himself with the utmost zeal to exercises of piety. His charity towards the poor was wonderful but he was particularly moved to pity, for the orphan children who wandered poor and dirty about the town. He received them into houses which he hired, where he fed them at his own expense and trained them to lead Christian lives.
At this time Blessed Cajetan and Peter Caraffa, who was afterwards Paul IV., disembarked at Venice. They commended Jerome’s spirit and his new institution for gathering orphans together. They also introduced him into the hospital for incurables, where he would be able to devote himself with equal charity to the education of orphans and to the service of the sick. Soon, at their suggestion, he crossed over to the Continent and founded orphanages, first at Brescia, then at Bergamo and Como. At Bergamo his zeal was specially prolific, for there, besides two orphanages, one for boys and one for girls, he opened a house, an unprecedented thing in those parts, for the reception of fallen women, who had been converted.
Finally he took up his abode at Somascha, a small village in the territory of Bergamo, near to the Venetian border and this he made his headquarters; here, too, he definitely established his Congregation, which, for this reason, received the name of Somasques. In course of time it spread and increased and, for the greater benefit of the Christian Republic, it undertook, besides the ruling and guiding of orphans and the taking care of Sacred buildings, the education, both secular and moral, of young men in Colleges, Academies and Seminaries.
Pius V. enrolled it among religious Orders and other Roman Pontiffs have honoured it with privileges. Entirely devoted to his work of rescuing orphans, Jerome journeyed to Milan and Pavia and in both Cities, he collected numbers of children and provided them, through the assistance given him by noble personages, with a home, food, clothing and education. He returned to Somascha and, making himself all to all, he refused no labour which he saw might turn to the good of his neighbour. He associated himself with the peasants scattered over the fields and while helping them, with their work of harvesting, he would explain to them the mysteries of faith. He used to take care of children with the greatest patience, even going so far as to cleanse their heads and he dressed the corrupt wounds of the village folk, with such success, that it was thought he had received the gift of healing. In 1928 Pope Pius XI proclaimed St Jerome as the Universal Heavenly Patron of Orphans and abandoned children.
On the mountain which overhangs Somascha, he found a cave in which he hid himself and there, scourging himself, spending whole days fasting, passing the greater part of the night in prayer and snatching only a short sleep on the bare rock, he expiated his own sins and those of others. In the interior of this grotto, water trickles from the dry rock, obtained, as constant tradition says, by the prayers of the Servant of God. It still flows, even to the present day and being taken into different countries, it often gives health to the sick.
At length, when a contagious distemper was spreading over the whole valley and he was serving the sick and carrying the dead to the grave, on his own shoulders, he caught the infection and died at the age of fifty-six. His precious death, which he had foretold a short time before, occurred in the year 1537. He was illustrious both in life and death for many miracles. Benedict XIV. enrolled him among the Blessed,and Clement XIII. solemnly inscribed his name on the catalogue of the Saints.