Collection: St. Jerome Emiliani

ARTIST: Julie Lonneman


After a debauched youth, Jerome Emiliani became a soldier in 1506 and was captured by Venetian forces in 1511. He credited his prayers to the Virgin Mary for his miraculous release. After his ordination in 1518, he cared for victims of the plague, even housing orphans in his own home. At night he searched for and buried those who had died unattended in the street. He contracted the fever himself, but survived to found six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital. He also founded a congregation, the Somaschi Fathers that continues to care for orphans today in a dozen countries.

Italy, ca. 1481-1537.

His feast day is February 8.

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Jerome was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo in the mountains near Treviso. He was captured by Venetian forces on 27 August 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. He prayed to Our Lady for help, was miraculously freed by an apparition, and hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became the Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood. He was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

Jerome cared for the sick, and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. Jerome founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital. He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Somascan Fathers, or Regular Clergy of Somasca) c.1532, a congregation of clerks who regularly vowed to the care of orphans. It was named after the town of Somasca where they started, and where they founded a seminary. The society was given approval by Pope Paul III in 1540, and continue their work today in a dozen countries. Jerome was believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion. He was declared the patron of orphans and abandoned children in 1928 by Pope Pius XI.

Born: 1481 at Venice, Italy

Died: February 8, 1537 in Italy of a disease caught when tending the sick

Beatified: September 29, 1747 by Pope Benedict XIV

Canonized: July 16, 1767


I urge you to persevere in your love for Christ and your faithful observance of the law of Christ.

Our Goal is God, the source of all good. As we say in our prayer, we are to place our trust in God and in no one else. In his kindness, our Lord wished to strengthen your faith, for without it, as the evangelist points out, Christ could not have performed many of his miracles. He also wished to listen to your prayer, and so he ordained that you experience poverty, distress, abandonment, weariness and scorn.

God alone knows the reasons for all this, yet we can recognize three causes. In the first place, our blessed Lord is tell young that he desires to include you among his beloved sons, provided that you remain steadfast in his ways, for this is the way he treats his friends and makes them holy.

The second reason is that he is asking you to grow continuously in your confidence in him alone and not in others.

Now there is a third reason. God wishes to test you like gold in the furnace. The dross is consumed by the fire, but the pure gold remains and its value increases. It is in this manner than God acts with his good servant, who puts his hope in him and remains unshaken in times of distress. God raises him up and, in return for the things he has left out of love for God, he repays him a hundredfold in this life and with eternal life hereafter.

If then you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and for ever in the next.

—Excerpts from a letter to his brothers by Saint Jerome Emiliani