Wednesday, August 17, 2022

St John of Capistrano – Feast Day – October 23

St John of Capistrano was a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest born on June 24 1386 in Capestrano, Abruzzi, Italy, and died on October 23 1456 at the age of 70 in Ilok, Syrmia, Croatia at the border with Serbia. We celebrate his feast day on October 23 every year in the Catholic Church.

St John of Capistrano is the Patron Saint of

  • Jurists
  • Belgrade, Serbia
  • Military chaplains
  • Hungary
St John of Capistrano Biography
St John of Capistrano - Feast Day - October 23
St John of Capistrano – Feast Day – October 23
Date of Birth June 24 1386
Place of Birth Capestrano, Abruzzi, Italy
Profession Catholic Priest and Franciscan Friar
Place of Work Several Countries in Europe
Date of Death October 23 1456 (aged 70)
Place of Death Ilok, Syrmia, Croatia at the border with Serbia
Feast Day October 23
Canonization By Pope Benedict XIII in 1724 in Rome
Patron Saint of
  1. Jurists
  2. Military chaplains
  3. Belgrade, Serbia
  4. Hungary

St John of Capistrano Life History

John’s father who had come to live in Capistrano, Italy died and his mother raised and educated him well. At the University of Perugia, he studied both civil law and Church law.

At the age of 26 years, in 1412, he was appointed as the Governor of Perugia by King Ladislaus of Naples.

In 1416, a war broke up between Perugia and the prominent House of Malatesta, and St John of Capistrano was sent to broker peace. Instead, he was thrown into prison. While in prison, John began to reflect on his life and resolved to make a U-turn to serve God.  

When he was released from prison he gave up all his worldly wealth, joined the Franciscan Order, and embraced poverty, chastity, and obedience. He said that he had a vision while in prison where Saint Francis of Assisi implored on him to enter the Order.

He had married before being imprisoned but had not consummated the marriage and therefore he was allowed to join the Order.

On October 4 1416, John of Capistrano entered the Order of Friars Minor at Perugia together with James of the Marches. He studied theology and practiced extreme asceticism and defended the observance of these practices.

He was ordained as a priest in 1425 and continued preaching in many cities and towns. He wowed many people and became widely known for his preaching. All over Northern and Central Europe, many huge Churches could not hold his huge crowds and he was forced to preach in open streets.

St John of Capistrano wrote against heresies of every kind. He assisted his superior, Bernardine of Siena in the reform of the Franciscan Order to bring back the adherence of the vows they take.

Due to this rigorous discipline, John, Bernardine and other adherents were accused of heresy about their strong devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. They were summoned to Rome but thereafter, they were acquitted of those accusations.

St John of Capistrano was frequently sent by the several popes of his time to many places to undertake different tasks. 

  • He was sent in 1439 to oppose the claims of the Antipope Felix V in Milan and Burgundy.
  • In 1446, he was sent to the King of France on a mission. 
  • In 1451, he was sent to Austria as the Apostolic Nuncio.
  • In 1453, after Turkish invaders took over Constantinople, John was sent by Pope Nicholas V on a mission to mobilize other European leaders to defend their lands.

The Church had burnt at the stake John Hus, a Bohemian priest, for heresy in 1415. This act had made Christians in Hungary and the Bohemian peoples of Central Europe especially Hus followers (The Hussites) start breaking away from the Church.

The Pope sent St John of Capistrano on a mission to convert the Hussites or to subjugate them. He unsuccessfully did his job for he did not manage to quash the heresy fully.

When Constantinople fell to the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Mehmed II continued to threaten Christian Europe. 

Pope Callixtus II sent St John of Capistrano, aged 70, to Christian European allies to form a crusade to repulse the Turkish invaders who were taking over their lands.

John had little success in Bavaria and Austria. He decided to focus on Hungary and by July 1456, he had mobilized a large army of peasants and the bucolic farmers. Although they were ill-equipped and trained, they courageously marched towards Belgrade which was currently under attack by the Turkish forces.

St John of Capistrano together with John Hunyadi, a leading Hungarian military and political figure, marshaled their separate troops towards Belgrade and managed to successfully repulse the Turkish forces. This led him to be called “the Soldier Priest”.

Death

John Hunyadi died shortly after the battle. However, bubonic plague spread in the place they were living near the Danube River. St John of Capistrano succumbed to the infection and died on October 23 1456 in Ilok, Syrmia, Croatia at the border with Serbia.

St John of Capistrano Feast Day

We celebrate his feast day on October 23 every year in the Catholic Church.

Canonization

St John of Capistrano was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1724 in Rome.

Missions Named After St John of Capistrano

  • Mission San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, California
  • Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Antonio in Texas

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