Jerome Emiliani joined the army of Venice when he was 15 years old. He didn’t think he needed God because he had his army, weapons, and his own strength. He was taken prisoner and chained in a dungeon. It was there that he began to contemplate his life and repented of his worldly ways.
Jerome had a miraculous escape and proceeded to hang the chains that had held him in a nearby church to show his gratitude for not only for being freed from the physical chains but spiritual ones as well. He studied and became a priest shortly after.
When a plague and famine devastated Northern Italy, Jerome devoted himself to feeding the sick and hungry with his own money. In doing that, he found a special place in his heart for abandoned children. He founded three orphanages, a hospital, and a shelter for prostitutes.
In 1532, Jerome and two other priests founded an organization to help care for orphans and to educate young people called the Clerks Regular of Somasca.
St. Jerome died at the age of 56 from a disease he caught while caring for the sick. He is the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.
Saint Jerome Emiliani, watch over all children who are abandoned or unloved. Give us the courage to show them God’s love through our care. Help us to lose the chains that keep us from living the life God intended for us. Amen.