July 20, 2019: ST. JEROME EMILIANI
July 20, 2019: ST. JEROME EMILIANI, CONFESSOR
[Founder of the Congregation of Regular Clergy of Somascha]
distributed, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory.”
(Ps, cxi. 9)
Cheerful is the man who take pity and lendeth, he disposeth his words in judgement; for he shall never stagger.
O God, the Father of all mercy, grant by the merits and intercession of blessed Jerome, whom thou wast pleased to make a helper and Father to poor orphans; that we may faithfully preserve the spirit of adoption, by which we are called, and really are thy children. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
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 Ӕmiliani, 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 to-day by the golden mouth 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.”
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 born at Venice, of the patrician family of the Ӕmiliani, 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 head quarters; 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 many miracles. Benedict XIV enrolled him among the Blessed, and Clement XIII solemnly inscribed his name on the catalogue of the Saints.
Another account of St. Jerome Emiliani
He was born at Venice of a patrician family; and, in the most troublesome times of the republic, served in the troops from his childhood. Whilst he was governor of the new castle in the mountains of Tarviso, he was taken prisoner, cast into a dungeon, and loaded with chains. His sufferings he sanctified by penance and prayer; and being delivered by the miraculous protection of the Mother of God, arriving at Tarviso, he hung up his chains before an altar consecrated to God under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, and, returning to Venice, devoted himself to the exercises of prayer and all virtues. At that time a famine and a contagious distemper having reduced many families to the greatest distress, he laid himself out in relieving all, but was particularly moved with compassion for abandoned orphans. These he gathered in a house which he hired, clothed and fed them at his own expense, and instructed them himself with unwearied zeal in the Christian doctrine and in all virtue. By the advice of St. Cajetan and others, he passed to the continent and erected like hospitals for orphans at Brescia, Bergamo, and other places; and others for the reception of penitent women. At Somascha, on the frontiers of the Venetian dominions, between Bergamo and Milan, he founded a house which he destined for the exercises of those whom he received into his congregation, and in which he long resided. From this house it took its name; though it was sometimes called St. Muyeul’s, titular of a college at Pavia, which St. Charles Borromeo put under his direction.
The instruction of youth and young clergymen became also an object of his zeal in his foundations... The brothers, during the life of the founder, were all laymen, and it was only approved as a pious congregation. The holy founder died at Somascha, on the 8th of February, 1537, of a contagious distemper which he had caught by attending the sick. He was beatified by Benedict XIV; and canonized by Clement XIII. An office in his honour was appointed for the 20th of July, by a decree of the holy see, published in 1769. Three years after his death, in 1540, his congregation was declared a religious Order by Paul III and confirmed under the rule of St. Augustine by St. Pius V, in 1571, and again by Sixtus V, in 1586. It has no houses out of Italy and the Catholic Swiss Cantons. It is divided into three provinces, of Lombardy, Venice, and Rome. The general is chosen every three years, out of each province in its turn.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Jerome Emiliani, pray for us.