Well, actually his name was more like Gerolamo Emiliani since he was Italian and lived Venice and its surrounds in the late 1400s- early 1500s. In the Roman Catholic tradition, he is known as St. Jerome- and is the patron saint of orphans and abandoned people. Today, according to the RC "Calender of Saints", February 8th, is his feast day.
How do I know this, you might ask?
Well, it is true that I was raised "Irish Catholic" and am probably one of the last generation, in North America, at least, that was actually taught by nuns (bless them). So, saints are a part of my cultural and spiritual heritage, and I have to admit that, as a child I was always fascinated and inspired by them. The fact that some of them didn't ever really exist, and that many of their stories are likely products of wild imagination does not make the concept of "saint", in my mind, any less interesting!
One of the stories that I was particulary impressed by was that of St. Agnes- one of the several sacrificial virgin martyrs who chose a horrific death over recanting her faith. I remember reading about her a Children's Book of Saints that my best friend owned (my family was not zealously religious, and we didn't have such things lying around the house). Anyways, what was probably most fascinating to me about that book was the pictures. In an upbringing that was maybe a *little* censored, here was this children's book containing pictures that often depicted the torture and the burning at the stake, etc.... oh my, I guess *certain "truths" were OK with the church if they made some sort of spiritual point.
But one of the things that I learned later in "Religion" class that has stuck with me is that saints don't necessarily have to do something awesome... (well, technically, to be officially cannonized/recognized by the RC hierarchy, I guess they do, like make miracles happen after they've died, but let's not get bogged down there)... rather, anybody who acts selflessly, with integrity and love and concern for the people around them, is living the life of a saint.
Imagine that. There are saints all around us. Sometimes, we might even live like saints. And then like sinners. And then like saints. Yin and yang, transforming into each other, just cloaked in a different spiritual tradition (maybe with a little hyperbole thrown in for good measure).
So, today is the day that recalls the life of Gerolamo Emiliani, whose life work was caring for children made orphans by the European plague of the 1500s. Sadly, there's still a need for lots of "Jeromes" today- and we're very lucky that there are some around.
Here is a link to one: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070206/ap_on_re_as/china_aids_whistleblower
I know there are those of you reading this who pray and meditate, and also those of you who don't. That doesn't matter. Just give a thought today for children who are abandoned either physically or emotionally, and for what they've lost. And hope that all the "St. Jeromes" out there are inspired, steadfast and supported by the rest of us.