Monday, March 8, 2010

Memorial of St John of God

"Saint John of God (1495-1550) was born at Montemoro Novo, Portugal and served as a soldier under Charles V in the wars between France, Spain and against the Turks in Hungary. He was the overseer of slaves in Morocco, and a shepherd near Seville. At forty he decided to make amends for his dissolute life by going to Africa to rescue Christian slaves captured by the Turks. Instead he accompanied a Portuguese family from Gibraltar to Ceuta, Barbary, and when he returned to Gibraltar, he became a peddler of holy pictures and religious books. He opened a shop in Granada, Spain and in 1538, a sermon by Saint John of Avila filled him with remorse and guilt for the sins of his past life.  Helped by John, he found a new purpose in life and he devoted his life to helping the sick and the poor and imploring God's mercy. He then rented a house in Granada to serve the sick and poor and that began the religious group known as the Order of Hospitallers, also called the Brothers of St. John of God. His holiness and dedication brought donations from the wealthy to carry on his work. He died in Granada, Spain in 1550 at age 55. He was canonized a saint in 1690 and is the patron of the sick, nurses and of hospitals.


If we look forward to receiving God's mercy, we can never fail to do good so long as we have the strength. For if we share with the poor, out of love for God, whatever he has given to us, we shall receive according to his promise a hundredfold in eternal happiness. What a fine profit, what a blessed reward! Who would not entrust his possessions to this best of merchants, who handles our affairs so well? With outstretched arms he begs us to turn toward him, to weep for our sins, and to become the servants of love, first for ourselves, then for our neighbors. Just as water extinguishes a fire, so love wipes away sin.
     So many poor people come here that I very often wonder how we can care for them all, but Jesus Christ provides all things and nourishes everyone. Many of them come to the house of God, because the city of Granada is large and very cold, especially now in winter. More than a hundred and ten are now living here, sick and healthy, servants and pilgrims. Since this house is open to everyone, it receives the sick of every type and condition: the crippled, the disabled, lepers, mutes, the insane, paralytics, those suffering from scurvy and those bearing the afflictions of old age, many children, and above all countless pilgrims and travelers, who come here, and for whom we furnish the fire, water, and salt, as well as the utensils to cook their food. And for all of this no payment is requested, yet Christ provides.
     I work here on borrowed money, a prisoner for the sake of Jesus Christ. And often my debts are so pressing that I dare not go out of the house for fear of being seized by my creditors. Whenever I see so many poor brothers and neighbors of mine suffering beyond their strength and overwhelmed with so many physical or mental ills which I cannot alleviate, then I become exceedingly sorrowful; but I trust in Christ, who knows my heart. And so I say: "Woe to the man who trusts in men rather than in Christ." Whether you like it or not, you will grow apart from men, but Christ is faithful and always with you, for Christ provides all things. Let us always give thanks to him. Amen."

-- Biography from the Liturgy of the Hours. Reading from the writings of St John of God.

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