The feast of St. Jerome Emiliani was today. I had no idea who that was so I had to consult the biography at the back of the missal. He was the founder of the Somascan Fathers and Brothers, commonly known as the Company of the Servants of the Poor. Initially, he was not a religious or spiritual man, but after a conversion experience, this military man gave away all his possessions to the poor and became a priest. He worked with orphans and troubled youth, whatever that meant in the late 1400s. He is the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.
Further research shows that when Venice came under attack, he was imprisoned and this sparked his conversion. He decided to let go of his worldly attachments–his disordered attachments as St. Ignatius would say–and surrender his life to God. Once released from prison, he laid his chains at a church in gratitude for being released not only physically from bondage, but also spiritually. He became a priest and dedicated his life to the poor, in particular orphans, who he housed, fed, and educated. He died in 1537 at the age of 56 due to an illness he contracted while caring for others.
The missalette has this quote of his: If you remain constant in your faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next. I liked this quote because it seemed real to me. Being a Christian has never meant to me that I get a free ride. I have see too many villages in developing countries where people love God fiercely and yet face more trials than we can imagine. These people live in squalor but still choose to follow Christ or a Divine Being. I have held space for many a believer whose faith is shaken with grief, death, sorrow, and devastation. They find their way to a solid foundation. My own experience lately is grinding me down. My prayer list is long….really long. I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament today and felt exhaustion throughout my body and spirit. I could not pray for myself and that was the reason I had sought the Son. I leaned my head back against the wall at one point, feeling somewhat frustrated at my inability to settle. Fine, I thought, and shifted to intercessory prayer. Three people on my list right now have received treatment for brain cancer–a dear friend, a friend’s 11-year-old daughter, and a friend’s brother who I have never met but feel compelled to pray for. Soon, one prayer after another came spilling out of me–for family, for friends, for the world. When I was done, I felt a great peace. Now, I could turn my focus to me. I still could not find words but I could feel the Holy Presence with me, strongly at one point. I had been given peace.
I will take those moments of peace as they come in this world and I cling to the promise that I will have them forever in the next. I am not always strong on this journey–I cannot maintain that realistically. When I reach my maximum capacity for stress, I seek the face of God, the quiet Presence, and the Holy Silence. An answer does not always come, but I do embrace the Peace given. For that I am grateful.
Do you have a conversion story?
How can you remain constant in the face of a trial?
Great Physician, keep me vigilant in my faith in the face of trials–mine and others. Give me the peace that surpasses all understanding. Grant me rest for a time here in this world before leading me Home to your everlasting arms. Amen.