Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Born at Montemor o Novo, Portugal, 8 March, 1495, of devout Christian parents ; died at Granada, 8 March, 1550. The wonders attending the saints birth heralded a life many-sided in its interests, but dominated throughout by implicit fidelity to the grace of God. A Spanish priest whom he followed to Oropeza, Spain, in his ninth year left him in charge of the chief shepherd of the place, to whom he gradually endeared himself through his punctuality and fidelity to duty, as well as his earnest piety. When he had reached manhood, to escape his mastery well-meant, but persistent, offer of his daughter's hand in marriage, John took service for a time in the army of Charles V, and on the renewal of the proposal he enlisted in a regiment on its way to Austria to do battle with the Turks. Succeeding years found him first at his birthplace, saddened by the news of his mother's premature death, which had followed close upon his mysterious disappearance; then a shepherd at Seville and still later at Gibraltar, on the way to Africa, to ransom with his liberty Christians held captive by the Moors. He accompanied to Africa a Portuguese family just expelled from the country, to whom charity impelled him to offer his services. On the advice of his confessor he soon returned to Gilbratar, where, brief as had been the time since the invention of the printing-press, he inaugurated the Apostolate of the printed page, by making the circuit of the towns and villages about Gilbratar, selling religious books and pictures, with practically no margin of profit, in order to place them within the reach of all.

It was during this period of his life that he is said to have been granted the vision of the Infant Jesus, Who bestowed on him the name by which he was later known, John of God, also bidding him to go to Granada. There he was so deeply impressed by the preaching of Blessed John of Avila that he distributed his worldly goods and went through the streets of the city, beating his breast and calling on God for mercy. For some time his sanity was doubted by the people and he was dealt with as a madman, until the zealous preacher obliged him to desist from his lamentations and take some other method of atoning for his past life. He then made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, where the nature of his vocation was revealed to him by the Blessed Virgin. Returning to Granada, he gave himself up to the service of the sick and poor, renting a house in which to care for them and after furnishing it with what was necessary, he searched the city for those afflicted with all manner of disease, bearing on his shoulders any who were unable to walk.

For some time he was alone in his charitable work soliciting by night the needful supplies, and by day attending scrupulously to the needs of his patients and the rare of the hospital ; but he soon received the co-operation of charitable priests and physicians. Many beautiful stories are related of the heavenly guests who visited him during the early days of herculean tasks, which were lightened at times by St.Raphael in person. To put a stop to the saint's habit of exchanging his cloak with any beggar he chanced to meet, Don Sebastian Ramirez, Bishop of Tuy, had made for him a habit, which was later adopted in all its essentials as the religious garb of his followers, and he imposed on him for all time the name given him by the Infant Jesus, John of God. The saint's first two companions, Antonio Martin and Pedro Velasco, once bitter enemies who had scandalised all Granada with their quarrels and dissipations, were converted through his prayers and formed the nucleus of a fourishing congregation. The former advanced so far on the way of perfection that the saint on his death-bed commended him to his followers as his successor in the government of the order. The latter, Peter the Sinner, as he called himself, became a model of humility and charity.

Among the many miracles which are related of the saint the most famous is the one commemorated in the Office of his feast, his rescue of all the inmates during a fire in the Grand Hospital at Granada, he himself passing through the flames unscathed. His boundless charity extended to widows and orphans, those out of employment, poor students, and fallen women. After thirteen years of severe mortification, unceasing prayer, and devotion to his patients, he died amid the lamentations of all the inhabitants of Granada. His last illness had resulted from an heroic but futile effort to save a young man from drowning. The magistrates and nobility of the city crowded about his death-bed to express their gratitude for his services to the poor, and he was buried with the pomp usually reserved for princes. He was beatified by Urban VIII, 21 September, 1638, and canonized by Alexander VIII, 16 October, 1690. Pope Leo XIII made St. John of God patron of hospitals and the dying. (See also BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF ST. JOHN OF GOD.)


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 11:4-12
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 20:27-40
27 Some Sadducees -- those who argue that there is no ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Cecilia
November 22: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter