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SAINT JOHN OF GOD (MARCH 8, 1495-MARCH 8, 1550)
Founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God
Sometimes the process of finding of one’s vocation, the intersection of one’s deepest joys and the world’s greatest needs, takes some time. However long this process might last, it is never too late to pursue one’s calling from God.
Consider the case of St. John of God. Born in Portugal in 1495, he bounced around in various careers. He served the Count of Oroprusa (in Castille and Spain) as Bailiff. Then, in 1522, the saint began to fight in military campaigns, first against the French (who were fighting the Spanish) then the Turks in Hungary. After the close of his military career, in 1536, the saint became a shepherd near Seville.
Yet there was greater work awaiting the saint. He became a penitent at age 40. He sought ways to devote his life to God. But what was the best way for him to accomplish this noble goal? Might he travel to Africa, to rescue Christian slaves? It was surely a noble cause. The saint chose instead to sell sacred books and pictures in Gibraltar, in 1538. There he heard St. John of Avila preach on St. Sebastian’s Day, the bookseller overreacted, crying aloud, beating his breast, begging for mercy publicly, wandering the streets, and generally behaving like a lunatic. So he wound up in an asylum, where St. John of Avila advised him that the best penance was doing something to help others.
So the former bookseller began his greatest work for God. Initially he began to help his fellow patients. After his release, the saint sold wood to raise funds for helping the poor of Granada. In 1540 he opened a shelter for the poor and offered medical care on the streets before finding a suitable building to function as a hospital. He offered these services freely, in the name of God, despite the scandal which arose from the fact that he did not refuse to help people of allegedly bad character. The only bad character at the hospital, the saint said, was himself.
A decade of this hard work led to illness and death on March 8, 1550. The archbishop presided over the saint’s funeral. Canonized in 1690, he is the patron saint of the sick, of hospitals, and of nurses, printers, and booksellers. The Order of Hospitallers, which he organized to assist him in his work among the poor of Granada, became the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God in 1572. The website (http://www.hospitallers.org/) of the U.S.A. Province of the order says this:
We, the Brothers of St. John of God, are called to witness to the people of God, Christ’s healing love as expressed by our charism of hospitality, through a community of faith and a compassionate service to God’s suffering people.
The legacy of St. John of God rests on how he spent the last ten years of his life. What will you do for God and your fellow human beings with what remains of your time on Earth?
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 20, 2011 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SARAH, BIBLICAL MATRIARCH
THE FEAST OF ST. FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME
The Collect from Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours (1976):
Father, you gave John of God love and compassion for others. Grant that by doing good for others we may be counted among the saints in your kingdom. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Readings I Have Selected:
Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 38:1-4, 6-10, 12-14
1 Corinthians 13
Revised on December 24, 2016