Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Guy named Jerome...

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:

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.


new girl said...

I like your definition of saint, Carolyn. I too grew up Catholic, also in a semi-devout family. While I no longer practice, I do like the idea of blending some of those traditions into the worldview I have today.

As to the saints among us, there are so many selfless people out there and I am so grateful to them.

On a slightly different note, did you see the movie Millions? If not, it's a really wonderful, heartwearming movie about two kids who in suburbia in England who find a load of money that was thrown off a train, and their dilemma over what to do with it. The younger of the two is fascinated by the lives of the saints, pores over his book about their lives, and has little conversations with them.

CA Momma said...

Just last night my 8yr old came to me with a drawing and a picture of St. Francis. He told me the story and described his beautiful, peaceful picture. I know nothing of Saints but it seems that my son has found them inspiring. He has been exposed to them via Waldorf School. NOT a religious school.

walternatives said...

I especially like your phrasing "Just give a thought today..." Very nice. I will.