Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
John of Capistrano, Priest, 1386-1456
John was the son of a German knight who was brought into the service of the King of Naples, Louis I. While his father died when John was quite young, he had the advantage of access to education. Having studied law, he was appointed governor of Perugia.
At this time in history, much turmoil and disease afflicted the European landscape and the Church. Bubonic plague claimed the lives of as many as thirty percent of the population. There were three claimants to the throne of St. Peter. And the many city-states in Italy were often at war with each other.
In this setting, John tried to arrange a truce with Malatesta with which Perugia was at war. Instead of negotiating with John, the Malatestans threw him into prison. During John’s imprisonment, he resolved that politics and governance were not the fields in which he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
Upon his release, John entered the Franciscan order. Ordained in 1420, he became a preacher and a force for reform of the Franciscan order which had become lax. John also preached against the heresies that had spread throughout Europe at the time. Traveling around much of Europe, he preached to crowds numbering in the tens of thousands. Since no church could hold the multitudes that came to listen to him, John preached in town squares. He turned thousands away from heresy and converted many Jews and Moslems during his journeys.
After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, John was commissioned by the pope to organize a crusade against the Moslems who were besieging Belgrade and threatening Europe. Having raised an army of 70,000, John, at the age of seventy, was then asked to lead this campaign. He was successful in this endeavor which turned back the Turks and saved Europe. Having completed this mission, John contracted the plague and died a few months later.
St. John of Capistrano is the patron saint of jurists and military chaplains. An optional memorial honors this saint on October 23.
John's message today: Having changed careers close to mid-life, John undertook several missions during the remainder of his life. It is possible, with God’s help, to accomplish much in your life.