20 Jul Saint Jerome Emiliani, Confessor
Today is the feast day of St. Jerome Emiliani. Ora pro nobis.
St Jerome Emiliani was born at Venice in 1481 and died at Somascha, 8 February, 1537. He was founder of the Order of Somascha, the Somascans. He was the son of Angelo Emiliani and of Eleonore Mauoceni.
St. Jerome Emilian, Confessor
from the Liturgical Year, 1909
Sprung from the powerful aristocracy which won for Venice twelve centuries of splendour, Jerome came into the world when that city had reached the height of its glory. At fifteen years of age he became a soldier; and was one of the heroes in that formidable struggle wherein his country withstood the united powers of almost all Europe in the League of Cambrai. The golden city, crushed for a moment, but soon restored to her former condition, offered her honours to the defender of Castelnovo, who like herself had fallen bravely and risen again. But our Lady of Tarviso had delivered him from his German prison, only to make him her own captive; she brought him back to the city of St. Mark, there to fulfil a higher mission than the proud Republic could have entrusted to him. The descendant of the Emiliani, captivated, as was Lawrence Justinian a century before, by Eternal Beauty, would now live only for the humility which leads to heaven, and for the lofty deeds of charity. His title of nobility will be derived from the obscure village of Somascha, where he will gather his newly recruited army; and his conquests will be the bringing of little children to God. He will no more frequent the palaces of his patrician friends, for he now belongs to a higher rank: they serve the world, he serves heaven; his rivals are the Angels, whose ambition, like his own, is to preserve unsullied for the Father the service of those innocent souls whom the greatest in heaven must resemble.
“The soul of the child,” as the Church tells us today by the golden month of St. John Chrysostom, “is free from all passions. He bears no ill will towards them that have done him harm, but goes to them as friends just as if they had done nothing. And though he be often beaten by his mother, yet he always seeks her and loves her more than any one else. If you show him a queen in her royal crown, he prefers his mother clad in rags, and would rather see her unadorned than the queen in magnificent attire; for he does not appreciate according to riches or poverty, but by love. He seeks not for more than is necessary, and as soon as he has had sufficient milk he quits the breast. He is not oppressed with the same sorrows as we, nor troubled with care for money and the like; neither is he rejoiced by our transitory pleasures, nor affected by corporal beauty. Therefore our Lord said, ‘Of such is the kingdom of heaven,' wishing us to do of our own free will what children do by nature (Chrys. in Matt. Hom. lxii. al. lxiii).”
Their Guardian Angels, as our Lord himself said, gazing into those pure souls, are not distracted from the contemplation of their heavenly Father: for he rests in them as on the wings of Cherubim, since baptism has made them his children. Happy was our Saint to have been chosen by God to share the loving cares of the Angels here below, before partaking of their bliss in heaven. The following detailed account is given by Holy Church:
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 liberal 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. 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 manymiracles. Benedict XIV. enrolled him among the Blessed, and Clement XIII. solemnly inscribed his name on the catalogue of the Saints. (2)
He founded a hospital in Verona and an orphanage in Padua. At Bergamo, which had been struck by a pestilence and famine, he went out with the reapers he could assemble, and cut wheat in the hottest season of the Italian summer. At their head, he sang Christian hymns in his rich voice, engaging the others to follow his example. There he founded two orphanages and succeeded in closing a number of houses of ill repute; he gave their inhabitants whom he converted a rule of life and procured a residence for them. The bishop was aiding him constantly; and he sent him out to other villages and hamlets to teach the children Christian doctrine. Multiple conversions resulted in all directions. Two holy priests joined him in Bergamo, soon followed by other noble gentlemen. This was the origin of the Congregation of Regular Clerics, called the Somascans because of their residence at Somasca, situated between Milan and Bergamo. The Congregation was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, and the Order spread in Italy. Saint Jerome died in 1537 at the age of 56, from the illness he contracted while caring for the sick during an epidemic in the region of Bergamo.
After the death of Jerome his community was about to disband, but was kept together by Gambarana, who had been chosen superior. He obtained the approval (1540) of Paul III. In 1547 the members vainly sought affiliation with the Society of Jesus; then in 1547-1555 they were united with the Theatines. Pius IV (1563) approved the institution, and St. Pius V raised it to the dignity of a religious order, according to the Rule of St. Augustine, with solemn vows, the privileges of the mendicants, and exemption. In 1569 the first six members made their profession, and Gambarana was made first superior general. Great favour was shown to the order by St. Charles Borromeo, and he gave it the church of St. Mayeul at Pavia, from which church the order takes its official name “Clerici regulares S. Majoli Papiae congregationis Somaschae”. Later the education of youth was put into the programme of the order, and the colleges at Rome and Pavia became renowned. It spread into Austria and Switzerland, and before the great Revolution it had 119 houses in the four provinces of Rome, Lombardy, Venice, and France. At present the order has ten houses in Italy two of which are in Rome. The general resides in Rome at S. Girolamo della Carita.
Image: Saint Jerome Emiliani (6)
Research by ED Masters, REGINA Staff