Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Saint John of God

John was born at Montemoro Novo, in Portugal to poor, but deeply Christian parents. John was a restless boy, for a while he was a shepherd, then a soldier, then a storekeeper. During his adult years he traveled over much of Europe. He and his friends wandered far away from God and lived bad lives.

By the time John was forty, he began to feel empty and sad about the life he was wasting away. In church he heard a preaching of the holy missionary, John of Avila and John realized what a sinner he had become. He began to weep right out loud.

In the days that followed, Saint John of Avila helped John begin his life again with hope and courage. John began to live differently. Prayer and penance became part of his daily life. The bishop then gave him the name “John of God” because he changed his selfish life completely and truly became "of God." John of God began to realize how much poverty and suffering filled the lives of people.

He began nursing the sick in the hospitals and asylums. Then he found that many people were too poor to have hospital care. Who would take care of them? He decided that, for the love of God, he would.

When he was forty-five, John rented a house at Granada in Spain to care for the poor, sick, homeless and unwanted. The house became a small hospital where every person in need was welcomed. Many of his patients and those who came to help got converted. John gradually formed a religious order for the care of the poor called Brothers of Saint John of God.

Some people wondered if John was as holy as he seemed. Once, a Marquis disguised himself as a beggar and knocked on John's door, asking for alms. John cheerfully gave him all the money he had. The Marquis went away very impressed. The next day a messenger arrived at John's door with a letter of explanation from the Marquis and the money was also returned. In addition, the Marquis sent 150 gold crowns. He also had enough fresh bread, meat and eggs delivered every morning to the hospital for all the patients and staff.

John's motto was: "Labor without stopping. Do all the good works you can while you still have the time." After ten years of hard work in his hospital, John became sick. He died on his birthday in 1550. His feast day is March 8th.

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