Saint John of God, Confessor

March 8

Today is the feast day of Saint John of God.  Ora pro nobis.

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877


Saint John, surnamed of God, a Portuguese, was born at Monte Major. At his birth, an extraordinary heavenly light, in the form of a pillar of fire, was seen over his father’s house, and the church bells were rung by invisible hands. At the age of eight he secretly left his father’s house with a Priest whom his parents had entertained. The Priest, however, forsaking him on the road, he took service with a shepherd, and served him faithfully until he had reached his twenty-first year. His master then offered him his daughter in marriage, but John refused, and entered the army. Here, imitating his more lax comrades, he led an easy life. It happened that, while out foraging, he was thrown from his horse, and so badly injured that the blood flowed from his mouth and nostrils, and he lay insensible on the ground for two hours. On recovering, he raised himself to a kneeling posture, and, calling on the Queen of Heaven, he was soon restored to perfect health. On another occasion, being placed on guard over some captured booty, which the enemy retook, he was condemned to the gallows. The general spared his life, but ordered him to be ignominiously driven from the camp. Upon this, he returned to his former master and became a shepherd again. But soon wearied with this employment, he enlisted and fought against the Turks.

After this war was ended, he travelled to his native country in order to visit his parents. On his arrival he heard how his mother had died of grief, occasioned by his departure, and that his father had entered the Order of St. Francis. This news pierced the soul of John, and he determined to spend the rest of his days in penance–nay, he even resolved on going to Africa to shed his blood for Christ. He reached Ceuta, a city on the coast of Africa, in company with an exiled Portuguese nobleman. The nobleman, who had brought along his family, fell sick at this place, and he begged of John to postpone his projected journey and befriend him in this extreme calamity. John then worked as a laborer, and with his earnings supported the unfortunate family. Shortly after recovering, the gentleman was recalled from banishment, and the Saint, by the advice of his confessor, also retraced his steps to Spain, where he proposed to sell pious books. With this purpose, he bought an assortment of spiritual books and devotional pictures and sold them in the country places. One day John met on the road a poor barefooted lad, shivering with the cold. He took him up in his arms to bring him to a shelter. At first his burden appeared light, but gradually the burden became so heavy that he was obliged to sit down and rest. The boy then made himself known by displaying a pomegranate surmounted by a cross, saying, at the same time: “John, you will find your cross at Granada.” After these words he vanished. John, moved by an interior impulse, proceeds to Granada, hears a sermon preached, on the feast of St. Sebastian, by the celebrated F. Avila, which so touched his heart with sorrow for his sins that he wept aloud.

He now began in earnest to lead a penitential life. A desire to humble himself and to court the contempt of the world, induced him to act for a time the part of a madman. He was, therefore, taken to the hospital, locked in a cell, and subjected to harsh treatment. F. Avila, hearing of this, ordered him to lay aside his assumed madness, and perform the will of God by assisting the poor and sick. He obeyed, and waited upon the inmates of the hospital. Very soon, however, he purchased a dwelling with the alms he had gathered, and fitted it up for the reception of the sick. He carried the infirm on his shoulders to this house, and received those who came with the greatest tenderness. He cheerfully procured food and medicine for the sick, waited on them by day and night with the most unwearied zeal, consoled them in their sufferings, encouraged them to patience, and, when there was danger of death, exhorted them to receive the last Sacraments. He never left their bedside until death had claimed its own. God also sent him companions, who followed his example with zeal and devotion. Thus did the Order of Charity begin, which afterwards spread over many countries and wrought the salvation of many souls. The clergy and laity were greatly pleased with this work of charity, and gladly assisted John with abundant alms. In asking alms, he always said: “Be merciful to yourself, and do good to yourself; for,” he used to say, “almsgiving is of far more benefit to the donor than to the receiver.” At other times he would exclaim: “Brethren, do good while you have time.” Still abuse and injury from the ill-disposed were not wanting. St. John also had to suffer much from calumny and persecutions. This, however, did not prevent him from continuing his life of sacrifice. To his enemies his answers were always full of meekness, and thoughts of revenge were foreign to him. “If I wish to be saved,” he would say, “I must pardon my enemies sooner or later; I will do it rather this moment.

Though he was meek and gentle to his enemies, tender and charitable towards the sick, towards himself he had only austerity; for he chastised his body by watching, fasting, and other penances. Prayer occupied all the time not employed in works of charity. Our Lord and His Blessed Mother frequently appeared to the Saint, while engaged in this exercise. Thus, our, Lady once showed him a crown of thorns and placed it on his head, with these words: “Through thorns and suffering, my Divine Son wishes you to merit the crown prepared for you in heaven.” Hardly had these words been spoken, when acute pains seized the Saint over his whole body, but more particularly in the head. However, by meditating on the Passion of Christ, and the greatness of the future reward, he lessened his sufferings. On another occasion, he found a traveller lying on the road who seemed to be dangerously ill, and, transporting him to the hospital, he washed his feet and laid him in a bed. As he was about kissing the feet of the poor man, according to his usual custom, he remarked that they were transpierced. It was Christ Himself, under the form of a poor man, who spoke thus to St. John: “Whatever you do to the needy and suffering, I take as done to myself.” At another time, he fell to the ground under the weight of a sick man whom he was carrying, and a beautiful youth helped him to arise. On being asked who he was, the reply was given: “I am the Archangel Raphael, commissioned by the Almighty to protect and guard you and yours.”

In addition to the many great spiritual favors which the Saint had received, the Lord also gave him the gift of foretelling the future and of working miracles. I will relate only one example, taken from the Breviary. A great fire broke out in the hospital at Granada. St. John, fearlessly passing through the flames, went from room to room and brought out the sick, and saved much of the furniture, he himself escaping without the slightest harm, though he was exposed to the fury of the flames for half an hour. The flame of Divine love which burned in his heart surpassed the intensity of the material fire. By this great wonder, omitting many others, God wished to honor His indefatigable servant, but glorified him still more by calling him to receive his eternal reward. A burning fever attacked the Saint, but his patience was not at fault. He piously received the last Sacraments, after which he begged to be left alone for some time. Rising and dressing, he threw himself on his knees before the image of the Crucified; he took the sacred emblem in his hands and kissed it, exclaiming: “Into Thy hands, Jesus, I commend my spirit.” On hearing these words, some rushed into the room, but found him dead, with the crucifix pressed to his lips. The dead body remained kneeling upright for six hours, exhaling a most sweet odor. His death took place March 8, 1550. The many miracles wrought through his intercession confirmed his sanctity, and have rendered him celebrated throughout all Christendom. (2)

Among the many miracles which are related of the saint the most famous is the one commemorated in the Office of his feast, his rescue of all the inmates during a fire in the Grand Hospital at Granada, he himself passing through the flames unscathed. His boundless charity extended to widows and orphans, those out of employment, poor students, and fallen women. After thirteen years of severe mortification, unceasing prayer, and devotion to his patients, he died amid the lamentations of all the inhabitants of Granada. His last illness had resulted from an heroic but futile effort to save a young man from drowning. The magistrates and nobility of the city crowded about his death-bed to express their gratitude for his services to the poor, and he was buried with the pomp usually reserved for princes. He was beatified by Urban VIII, 21 September, 1638, and canonized by Alexander VIII, 16 October, 1690. Pope Leo XIII made St. John of God patron of hospitals and the dying. (4)

Litany of St. John of God

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary,
Pray for us.*
Saint John of God, who art our Father,*
St. John, who from thine infancy manifested such tenderness for the unhappy,*
St. John, faithful worker from thy youth,*
St. John, who didst understand the state of the poor and needy,*
St. John of God, who didst receive this name from the mouth of Our Lord,*
St. John, Man of Mercy, vowed to all kinds of good works,*
St. John, to whom God has confided the poor and little,*
St. John, who didst give liberally and with joy,*
St. John, who didst deliver the poor and save the destitute,*
St. John, feet of the lame,*
St. John, eyes of the blind,*
St. John, father of the needy,*
St. John, help of orphans,*
St. John, protector of virgins and widows,*
St. John, consoler of the afflicted,*
St. John, champion of the oppressed,*
St. John, physician for all complaints,*
St. John, joy of the sick,*
St. John, consolation of the dying,*
St. John, refuge of the miserable,*
St. John, furnace of charity,*
St. John, lover of chastity,*
St. John, meek and humble of heart,*
St. John, martyr by desire,*
St. John, model of patience,*
St. John, victim of penance,*
St. John, triumpher over demons,*

St. John, who didst merit the special assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of St. John the Evangelist,
Intercede for us.**
St. John, whom the Archangel Raphael often visited and helped,**
St. John, who didst expire on thy knees holding the crucifix,**
St. John, on the day of Judgment,**

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Graciously hear its, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Have mercy on us, O Lord.

Pray for us, O our Father, Saint John of God.
That we may become your faithful imitators.

Let us pray:


Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst grant to Blessed John of God, our Patriarch and Thy faithful servant, so abundant a charity toward the poor, that he devoted himself to their service in becoming their Father: grant that we may serve Thy suffering members with a charity which may merit for us the reward of being united for ever in Heaven with Thee, our Divine Head, Who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen.

O glorious Saint John of God! Full of compassion and tenderness for the afflicted! Thou, who as a reward for thy charity, didst merit to minister to Jesus Christ under the appearance of a pilgrim: obtain for us the grace ever to see Jesus Christ in the person of our neighbor, so that we may be found worthy to receive the eternal bliss promised to those who serve the Divine Master in the person of the sick. Amen. (2)

Image: Saint John of God (8)

Research by REGINA Staff


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