St John of God – Feast Day – March 8

Today is Thursday, March 23, 2023

St John of God, also known as João Duarte Cidade, was born on March 8 1495 in Montemor-o-Novo, which is now in the District of Évora in the Kingdom of Portugal.

He died on March 8 1550 at the age of 55 in Granada, Spain.

We celebrate his feast day on March 8 every year in the Catholic Church.

St John of God is the Patron Saint of Booksellers, printers, Firefighters, heart patients, hospitals, nurses, the sick, the mentally ill, and the dying.

St John of God Biography
St John of God - Feast Day - March 8
St John of God – Feast Day – March 8
Date of Birth March 8, 1495
Country of Birth Portugal in Europe
Profession Portuguese-born soldier turned healthcare worker
Place of Work Granada, Spain
Date of Death March 8 1550
Place of Death Granada, Spain
Feast Day March 8
Beatification By Pope Urban VIII on September 21 1630 in Rome, Papal States
Canonization By Pope Alexander VIII on October 16 1690 in Rome, Papal States
Patron Saint of
  • Booksellers
  • Printers
  • Firefighters
  • Heart patients
  • Hospitals
  • Nurses
  • The sick
  • The mentally ill
  • The dying

St John of God Life History

St John of God was born on March 8 1495 in Portugal. His father was André Cidade and his mother was Teresa Duarte. Although his family was once prominent, they had fallen into poverty, but they remained devoutly religious.

When John was eight years old, he listened to a visiting priest who spoke about the exciting opportunities and new worlds that were being discovered at that time. He ran away from home and he never saw his parents again.

After leaving home, St John of God traveled from village to village, relying on begging to sustain himself until he fell ill.

Fortunately, he was taken in by a man who managed a large estate and nursed back to health. John spent the next few years working as a shepherd in the mountains until he reached the age of 27.

At this point, he began to feel pressure to marry the manager’s daughter, who he loved as a sister. To avoid this situation, John decided to join the Spanish army in their war against France.

During his time as a soldier, St John of God did not exhibit particularly pious behavior, and instead participated in the vices of his comrades, including gambling, drinking, and pillaging.

However, one day he was thrown from a stolen horse near French lines, and fearing for his life, he reflected on his past actions and made a spontaneous vow to change his ways.

Upon returning from the war, John followed through with his vow, confessing his sins and committing to a new way of life.

However, his comrades were not pleased with his newfound piety and resented his attempts to persuade them to abandon their vices.

Using his impulsive nature against him, they convinced him to leave his post to assist someone in need, which resulted in his expulsion from the army after being beaten, stripped, and nearly hanged.

St John of God then returned to his foster home, where he worked as a shepherd until he learned of a new war in which Moslems were invading Europe.

He joined the war but afterwards decided to search for his biological parents. Unfortunately, he discovered that both of them had passed away during his absence, causing him great sorrow.

During his time as a shepherd, St John of God had ample opportunity to reflect on his calling in life. At the age of 38, he decided to travel to Africa to ransom Christian captives from the Muslims.

However, before he could embark on this mission, he encountered a noble family who were being exiled to Africa due to political machinations.

Moved by their plight, John abandoned his original plan and offered to serve them as a servant. When the family became ill during their exile, John not only nursed them back to health but also worked tirelessly to earn money to feed them.

His work building fortifications was brutal and inhumane, and the workers were subjected to mistreatment and beatings from fellow Catholics.

Witnessing Christians behave in such a manner shook John’s faith deeply. However, a priest advised him not to blame the Church for the actions of a few individuals and urged him to return to Spain.

St John of God ultimately decided to leave Africa only after learning that the family he had adopted had been granted pardons.

After leaving Africa, John became a book peddler in Spain, journeying from one town to another and selling religious books and holy cards.

At the age of 41, he had a vision that led him to settle in Granada, where he opened a small shop and continued to sell books.

It is because of his work as a bookseller that he is now regarded as the patron saint of booksellers and printers.

Following a sermon by the renowned preacher St John of Avila on the topic of repentance, St John of God was deeply moved by the thought of his own sins.

So overwhelmed was he by this realization that the entire town began to view the previously unassuming bookseller as being insane.

In the aftermath of the sermon, John hurried back to his shop, destroyed all of his secular books, and gave away both his religious books and all of his money.

He was consumed by grief and openly weeping, which led to him becoming the target of ridicule and even physical abuse, including being pelted with stones and mud by both his neighbours and their children.

John’s friends eventually took him to the Royal Hospital, where he was placed in a nuthouse. He was subjected to the usual treatments of the time, which included being bound and whipped on a daily basis.

However, after forty days of this punishment – which was meant to symbolize the same duration as the Lord’s suffering in the desert – John of Avila visited him at the hospital and advised him that he had already endured enough penance. As a result, John was moved to a better part of the hospital.

St John of God was always compelled to alleviate the suffering of others whenever he encountered it. So, when he was released from his restraints and moved to a better part of the hospital, he immediately started to assist the other patients around him, despite still being a patient himself.

The hospital staff was initially hesitant to release John when he declared that he was going to establish his own hospital. Eventually, they did.

To fund his hospital, John resorted to selling wood in the square, and at night he used his meager earnings to help the destitute who lived in abandoned buildings and under bridges. Hence, the streets of Granada became his first hospital.

St John of God later leased a vacant house so he could provide nursing care to his patients indoors. He attended to their needs such as cleaning them, dressing their wounds, and mending their clothes at night while he prayed.

He would ask for donations to purchase beds, furniture, and medicine before going back out into the streets to transport his sick patients back to the house.

St John of God was known for his impulsive desire to assist people in need. There was a time when the Royal Hospital caught fire, and he immediately abandoned everything to rush to the scene.

Upon arriving, he discovered that the crowd was just watching the hospital burn without taking any action.

Without hesitation, he entered the burning building and rescued the patients while salvaging blankets, sheets, and mattresses from the flames.

Although he fell through the burning roof during the process, he miraculously emerged from the smoke unharmed.

Due to his bravery and heroic actions, St John of God is now revered as the patron saint of firefighters.

On another occasion, despite his illness, John was informed of precious driftwood being brought near the town by a flood.

Without hesitation, he went to gather the wood from the raging river. Unfortunately, one of his companions fell into the river, and John immediately jumped in after him, disregarding his own well-being.

Sadly, he was unable to save the boy, and as a result, he caught pneumonia. On March 8 1550, on his birthday, at the age of fifty-five, he died of that Pneumonia.

After his death, St John of God’s body was laid to rest in the Church of Our Lady of Victories, which belonged to the Minim friars.

His remains remained there until November 28 1664, when the Hospitaller Brothers decided to transfer his relics to the church of their hospital in the city.

Over time, John was able to attract a loyal group of disciples who felt compelled to join him in his selfless service.

He established the Order of Hospitallers, and under his guidance, they became known as the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God.

In 1572, the Holy See approved the order, which has since expanded to provide medical care to the sick in countries worldwide.

A testament to St John of God’s dedication is that the order has been entrusted with the responsibility of providing medical care to the pope. After John’s passing, Pedro Soriano succeeded him as the leader of the order.

Veneration

St John of God is venerated in the Catholic Church and the Byzantine Rite of Lutheranism.

He was beatified on September 21, 1630, in Rome, Papal States, by Pope Urban VIII and was canonized on October 16, 1690, in Rome, Papal States, by Pope Alexander VIII.

His major shrine is located at the Basilica of St. John of God in Granada, Spain. In the Roman Catholic Church, his feast day is celebrated on March 8, while Eastern Lutheranism observes it on November 26.

St John of God is often depicted with attributes such as alms, a cord, a crown of thorns, and a heart.

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