Ordinary Time: February 8th
Optional Memorials of St. Jerome Emiliani, priest; St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin
Old Calendar: St. John of Matha, confessor
St. Jerome Emiliani was born in Venice in 1486. He converted to Christianity after a rather dissolute youth, and dedicated himself to the service of the poor, the sick, and abandoned children. He founded a congregation (Somaschi) which looked after the education of children, especially orphans. He died of the plague while serving the afflicted.Saint Josephine was a young Sudanese girl sold into slavery and brought to Italy where, while serving as a nanny, she was sent to live with the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of the Catechumens in Venice. There she was baptized, and, having reached majority age, was granted her freedom by Italian law. In 1896 she joined the Canossian Daughters of Charity where she served humbly for the next twenty five years. She died after a long and painful illness, during which she would cry out to the Lord: "Please loosen the chains... they are so heavy!" Her dying words were "Our Lady! Our Lady!"According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. John of Matha, who came from Provence, France and was ordained a priest in Paris. He retired to a solitary life conscious that God was calling him to a special mission, and spent three years in prayer and recollection. He then founded the Trinitarian Order for the ransom of Christians held by the Mohammedans. A great number of houses were founded and innumerable prisoners set free. St. John spent the last two years of his life in Rome, where he died.
St. Jerome Emiliani
A careless and irreligious soldier for the city-state of Venice, Jerome was captured in a skirmish at an outpost town and chained in a dungeon. In prison Jerome had a lot of time to think, and he gradually learned how to pray. When he escaped, he returned to Venice where he took charge of the education of his nephews—and began his own studies for the priesthood.
- Read more about St. Jerome: Life of St. Jerome
- Meditate on these words: "Before dying, Jerome gives to his own a testament that is not only the synthesis of his spiritual experience, but also an itinerary of Christian life: Follow the way of the Crucified, despise the world, love one another, serve the poor. The life of love for the poor is born from a community of people who live the commandment of the reciprocal love, after having decided to have, as a goal, only God. The cross becomes the expression of this dedication and love, on the example of Jesus Christ."
- We suggest you visit the Somascan Fathers and Brothers' website where you can read St. Jerome's letters written in 1535 as well as other documents and you can also learn more about this religious community.
St. Josephine Bakhita
For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave, but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed. Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means fortunate. She was resold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan.
- Visit these websites for more about the life of St. Josephine: Josephine Bakhita (Vatican's biography); Josephine Bakhita - an African Saint (Has links to information about the Faith in Africa and the persecution which continues).
- The Canossian Daughters of Charity are called to contemplate, experience and share God's love for every person and to participate in Christ's mission of salvation in a life of total dedication to God, communion and humble service with Mary, mother of love beneath the cross. Learn more about the Canossian Daughters of Charity, the order in which St. Josephine became a professed religious.
- A Sister seeing St. Josephine so peaceful and always in prayer, asked, "Do you wish to go to heaven?" "I wish neither to go nor to stay. God knows where to find me, when He wants me." To another who asked how she was going on, she answered, "I am going slowly, step by step, because I have two heavy bags to carry - one containing my own sins, the other Christ's merits. When I get to the other side, I will open my bags and say, 'Eternal Father, now judge!' and to St Peter, 'You can close that door of yours, for I'm going to stay.'" More autobiographical excerpts from St. Josephine's wonderful story can be found here.
- Pray for those suffering persecution in Sudan. Read what Bishop Macram Max Gassis says in this article, Sudan: Country of Terrorism, Religious Persecution, Slavery, Rape, Genocide, and Man-Made Starvation and this statement from the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Regional Conference.
St. John of Matha
John of Matha, the founder of the Trinitarian Order, was born at Faucon, on the borders of Provence, in France. He was trained as a young noble in horsemanship and the use of arms, decided to study for the priesthood, and was ordained in Paris. After some years in solitude, he conceived the idea of founding an order to ransom Christian captives from the Muslims and went to Rome to obtain the blessing of Pope Innocent III.
- Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. John of Matha saw a critical need for the Church at the time and set about doing something about it. He devoted all of his time, his efforts, and his resources to ransom his fellow Christians from slavery, and his work continued into modern times, until slavery was abolished. Like him, we should look around us and see what good has to be done and then courageously put our hand to the task.
- Read a longer biography of St. John.