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“HE WHO LOSES HIS LIFE WILL GAIN IT”

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Saint Jerome Emiliani

Far from making him bitter imprisonment brought Jerome Emiliani closer to God and inspired him to spend his life caring for others.

Born in 1481, he served in the army at a time when Venice was frequently at war with her neighbours. He was given the command of the fortress of Castelnuovo but when the town fell Jerome was taken prisoner and chained in a dungeon. Having led a careless life with no thought for religion, he now turned to prayer and made a vow to dedicate his life to Our Lady. Shortly afterwards he was able to escape, and returned to Venice to study for the priesthood, being ordained in 1518.

When famine and plague caused great distress, Jerome devoted himself to relieving suffering. He took a particular interest in abandoned orphans, renting a house for them, feeding and clothing them at his own expense, and personally teaching them their Catholic faith.

The care of orphans was to become Jerome's chief work, and he went on to found orphanages in Brescia, Bergamo and Como. It is said that Jerome was the first teacher to instruct children by means of a question-and-answer catechism.

Jerome also founded a hospital in Verona and a refuge for reformed prostitutes. In 1532 with two other priests he established a Congregation with the purpose of providing for orphans and educating young people.

While attending the sick, Jerome caught an infectious disease and died on 8 February 1537. He was canonised in 1767 and in 1928 Pope Pius XI declared him patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

Jerome became a saint by turning misfortune to advantage. Having found himself in prison it made him consider that there was more to life than the one he had led. He turned to God and Our Blessed Lady and they enriched his life. In his case Our Lord’s words rang true, "He who loses his life will gain it.”

We thank God that there are people in our world today, like Saint Jerome, who care for orphans and give them a parent's love.