St. Jerome Emiliani
Jerome was born in 1486, the son of a noble family of Venice, Italy. He was a good soldier and was put in command of a fortress high in the mountains. While defending this post from an invasion by some troops of Maximilian I, he was taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. Chained in that miserable prison, he began to regret the careless way he had been living. He was sorry that he had thought so little about God. He was sorry for wasting several years in immoral living. Jerome promised the Blessed Mother that he would change his life if she would help him. His prayers were answered and he escaped to safety. It is said that Jerome, with a grateful heart, went straight to a church. He hung his prison chains in front of Mary's altar.
The young man eventually became a priest. He was devoted to works of charity. His special concern was for the many homeless orphan children he found in the streets. He rented a house for them, and gave them clothes and food. He instructed them in the truths of the faith.
St. Jerome started a religious congregation of men called the Company of the Servants of the Poor. They would care for the poor, especially orphans, and would teach youth. He did all he could for the peasants, too. He would work with them in the fields. St. Jerome would talk to them of God's goodness while he worked by their side. He died while caring for plague victims in 1537. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XIV in 1767.
St. Jerome Emiliani was a gift to the people of his time and to all the Church. By totally turning his life around, he became an image of the love of God. He gave hope to those who were poor and abandoned. In 1928, Pope Pius XI named him the patron saint of orphans and homeless children.
St. Jerome was truly an image of the love of God. How can we witness to our love for God?