Saint Jerome Emiliani

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Saint Jerome Emiliani

Founder of the Somascans
(1481-1537)

Saint Jerome Emiliani, born in 1481, was a member of one of the Christian patrician families of Venice, and in early life a soldier. Showing in his youth much inclination to virtue, he studied the humanities with success until the age of fifteen, when the clash of arms interrupted his peaceful pursuits and his practice of virtue. And then, only his ambition for honors placed limits to his disorders; it was necessary to live honorably in order to receive promotions. He was appointed governor of a fortress in the mountains of Treviso, and while defending his post with outstanding bravery, was made prisoner by the enemy. In the misery of his dungeon he invoked amid tears the great Mother of God, recognizing that his chastisement was just. He promised, nonetheless, if She would set him free, to lead a new and better life, more worthy of his Christian heritage, and to make known Her benefits in every possible way. Our Lady appeared to him at once, gave him the keys he needed, and commanded him to fulfill faithfully what he had promised. She led him out through the ranks of his enemies to the gate of the city. He went to Her church at Treviso and dedicated himself to the service of the One who had delivered him, proclaiming Her mercies to all listeners. He consigned to writing, and had notarized, an account of his deliverance.

On reaching his home in Venice he undertook a life of active charity, causing admiration in all who had known him as a worldling. His special love was for the deserted orphan children whom he found wandering in the streets during a famine and an epidemic in 1528. Already he had converted his house into a hospital, selling even its furnishings to clothe and feed the poor folk who came in great numbers to him, when they heard he had procured wheat from other regions. He acquired a house for the children, and after recovering miraculously from the illness which he had contracted during the epidemic, he himself taught them the Christian truths. Soon the accounts of his pious orphanage brought visitors, and financial aid sufficient to sustain the enterprise. He was then entrusted with the Venitian Hospital for the Incurables. When he needed some particular grace, he had four orphans under eight years of age pray with him, and the grace never failed to arrive. In Venice he was aided in his Hospital by his friends, Saint Cajetan of Thienna and Saint Peter Caraffa of Naples.

He founded a hospital in Verona and an orphanage in Padua. At Bergamo, which had been struck by a pestilence and famine, he went out with the reapers he could assemble, and cut wheat in the hottest season of the Italian summer. At their head, he sang Christian hymns in his rich voice, engaging the others to follow his example. There he founded two orphanages and succeeded in closing a number of houses of ill repute; he gave their inhabitants whom he converted a rule of life and procured a residence for them. The bishop was aiding him constantly; and he sent him out to other villages and hamlets to teach the children Christian doctrine. Multiple conversions resulted in all directions. Two holy priests joined him in Bergamo, soon followed by other noble gentlemen. This was the origin of the Congregation of Regular Clerics, called the Somascans because of their residence at Somasca, situated between Milan and Bergamo. The Congregation was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, and the Order spread in Italy. Saint Jerome died in 1537 at the age of 56, from the illness he contracted while caring for the sick during an epidemic in the region of Bergamo.

Reflection: Let us learn from Saint Jerome to exert ourselves in behalf of the many hundreds of children whose souls are perishing around us, for want of someone to show them the way to heaven.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 8

Saint Margaret of Antioch

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Saint Margaret of Antioch

Virgin and Martyr († 275)

Saint Margaret was born in the third century at Antioch of Pisidia in southern Asia Minor. Her mother died while she was an infant, and she was instructed in the Christian faith by a virtuous nurse. When her father, a pagan priest named Aedesius, learned she was a Christian, he drove her out of the house. She became a shepherdess to earn her living.

When a Roman prefect arrived in the region to persecute the Christians, Margaret was imprisoned. The prefect, fascinated by her beauty, desired to save her life and add her to the already considerable number of his wives and concubines. He decided to attempt to overcome her resistance by questioning her before an assembly consisting of virtually the entire city. Her reply to his ultimatum, offering her a choice between joy and torments, was recorded and became renowned. She said: The true life and true joy, thanks be to God, I have already found, and have placed them in the stronghold of my heart that they may never be removed. I mean that I adore and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, that I venerate Him with confidence and will never cease to honor Him with my whole soul. Know that no human power, no torture will be able to extract from my heart so great a treasure. When the prefect replied that someone had certainly put such ideas into her very young and inexperienced head, a long dialogue ensued, Margaret striving to make him understand the reason for her confidence, and that God Himself gives replies to those who believe in Him when they are questioned, according to His own promise.

Hearing her say that her Lord was not merely a man, but very genuinely God and Man at one same time, whose power was far above that of emperors, he became furious and sent her to be scourged, suspended in the air by her hands. Many spectators wept and begged her to have pity on herself. She replied: Illustrious gentlemen and noble ladies, do not weaken my courage, for as the Apostle said, bad conversation corrupts good habits. But I forgive you, because you act this way out of sympathy, and do not possess the true light… Cast into prison still alive, she was visited by a demon whom she put to flight by a sign of the cross; there followed a vision of the cross of salvation, accompanied by a voice exhorting her to persevere. When on the following day she was subjected to the torment of burning torches, she felt no pain. She continued under other ineffectual torments to exhort the spectators to understand who it was she adored, and finally was beheaded with a large number of those whom her words had caused to believe as she did.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 8

Prophet Elijah

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Prophet Elias

Elias (Hebrew ‘Eliahu, “Yahveh is God”; also called Elijah).

The loftiest and most wonderful prophet of the Old Testament. What we know of his public life is sketched in a few popular narratives enshrined, for the most part, in the First (Third) Book of Kings. These narratives, which bear the stamp of an almost contemporary age, very likely took shape in Northern Israel, and are full of the most graphic and interesting details. Every part of the prophet’s life therein narrated bears out the description of the writer of Ecclesiasticus: He was “as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch” (48:1). The times called for such a prophet. Under the baneful influence of his Tyrian wife Jezabel, Achab, though perhaps not intending to forsake altogether Yahveh’s worship, had nevertheless erected in Samaria a temple to the Tyrian Baal (1 Kings 16:32) and introduced a multitude of foreign priests (xviii 19); doubtless he had occasionally offered sacrifices to the pagan deity, and, most of all, hallowed a bloody persecution of the prophets of Yahveh. Continue reading

Pope Leo XIII

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Pope Leo XIII

Born 2 March, 1810, at Carpineto; elected pope 20 February, 1878; died 20 July, 1903, at Rome. Gioacchino Vincenzo Raffaele Luigi was the sixth of the seven sons of Count Lodovico Pecci and his wife Anna Prosperi-Buzi. There was some doubt as to the nobility of the Pecci family, and when the young Gioacchino sought admission to the Accademia dei Nobili in Rome he met with a certain opposition, whereupon he wrote the history of his family, showing that the Pecci of Carpineto were a branch of the Pecci of Siena, obliged to emigrate to the Papal States in the first half of the sixteenth century, under Clement VII, because they had sided with the Medici.

At the age of eight, together with his brother Giuseppe, aged ten, he was sent to study at the new Jesuit school in Viterbo, the present seminary. He remained there six years (1818-24), and gained that classical facility in the use of Latin and Italian afterwards justly admired in his official writings and his poems. Much credit for this is due to his teacher, Padre Leonardo Garibaldi. When, in 1824, the Collegio Romano was given back to the Jesuits, Gioacchino and his brother Giuseppe entered as students of humanities and rhetoric. At the end of his rhetoric course Gioacchino was chosen to deliver the address in Latin, and selected as his subject, “The Contrast between Pagan and Christian Rome”. Not less successful was his three years’ course of philosophy and natural sciences. Continue reading

St. Praxedes

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St. Praxedes, Virgin

SHE was daughter of Pudens, a Roman senator, and sister to St. Pudentiana, and in the days of Pope Pius I. and the emperor Antoninus Pius, edified the church of Rome by the bright lustre of her virtues. All her great riches she employed in relieving the poor and the necessities of the church. By the comfort and succours which she afforded the martyrs she endeavoured to make herself partaker of their crowns, and she lived in the assiduous exercise of prayer, watching, and fasting. She died in peace and was buried near her sister on the Salarian road. Bede and other martyrologists style her a virgin. An old title or parish church in Rome bearing her name is mentioned in the life of Pope Symmachus. It was repaired by Adrian I. and Paschal I. and lastly by St. Charles Borromeo, who took from it his title of cardinal. 1
The primitive Christians lived only for heaven, and in every step looked up to God, regardless of all lower pursuits or meaner advantages that could interfere with their great design of knowing and loving him. This constant attention to God awed them in their retirements; this gave life and wings to their devotions, and animated them to fervour in all their actions; this carried them through the greatest difficulties and temptations, and supported them under all troubles and afflictions. 2

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. July 21.