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Forty days before the Triduum, the Lenten season disposes Catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery through prayer and penitential practices.
John of God, Religious, 1495-1550
John, born in Portugal, was a soldier in the wars between Spain and France as well as in the war against the Turks in Hungary. Later he was a shepherd in Seville and also served as an overseer of slaves in Morocco.
During the early years of his life, John had given up the Christian faith. But, when he was about forty years of age, John decided to atone for his immoral life by going to Africa to rescue Christian slaves and to seek martyrdom. Instead, he got as far as Gibraltar where he peddled religious books and holy pictures. In 1538, he went to Grenada and opened a religious goods store.
Soon after, he heard a sermon by St. John of Avila that filled him with remorse. He engaged in a public beating of himself, begging forgiveness for his sins and wildly repenting his former ways. For this, he was thrown into an insane asylum. Helped by John of Avila, who suggested that he apply his energies to helping others rather than to practicing the harsh penances that he had imposed on himself, John of God found new purpose in his life. Upon his release from the asylum in 1539, he devoted himself to helping the sick and the poor.
John opened a house to care for these ill-fated people, at first begging for alms to supply the basic needs of his house. Soon, his wisdom, zeal, dedication, and holiness in serving the unfortunates so impressed the people of Grenada that the wealthy clamored to support his efforts. The work of John and his supporters was the beginning of the Order of the Brothers Hospitalers, also known as the Brothers of St. John of God, an order that has spread throughout the world.
St. John of God is the patron saint of booksellers, heart ailments, hospitals, nurses, printers, and the sick. An optional memorial celebrates the life of this saint on March 9.
John's message today: God never gives up on anyone, but loves all of us equally as his children. Like many of our own children, it took John a little longer to determine what it was that God was asking him to do with his life. Nevertheless, once he had chosen the right course, John launched into it with fervor.