Today we celebrate the feast of a somewhat lesser known saint in popular Catholic culture, but a giant in the Church. Saint John Chrysostom, an early Church Father and Doctor of the Church, gained the name Chrysostom, meaning “golden mouthed”, due to his eloquent speaking and preaching ability. According to Catholic Encyclopedia, he “is generally considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit.” (source)
Born in Antioch around 349AD, Saint John’s father died shortly after John’s birth, and his mother raised him and his older sister. She made sure he received a good education and he eventually became one of the most famous orators of his time. At one point St. John met Bishop Meletius, bishop of Antioch during the time of the Arian controversy. This turned out to be a crucial point in the saint’s life. The bishop’s character and preaching led St. John to turn from secular to religious studies. Three years later he was baptized and later ordained a lector, a step towards the diaconate. Desiring a deeper spirituality, he joined an ascetic community and became a monk. He eventually returned to Antioch, as the severity of that life damaged his health. Some time after his return to Antioch, he became a deacon and then later a priest.
As a priest, St. John, used his oratory skills in his teaching and preaching. At that time, it was common to preach consecutively on scripture. His preaching gives the Church a treasure of knowledge about the dogma, history, and moral teaching of the time. As this was a time of great controversy and development of doctrine, his writings proved important.
In 397, St. John was ordained bishop of Constantinople. He did much to clean up and correct some abuses and lax practices in the clergy, the monasteries, and the ecclesiastical widows. He then turned his eye toward the laity and abjured the rich for their extravagant life and lack of care for the poor, while calling all to a greater fidelity to marriage and acts of charity. Because he preached and admonished the sinner without reserve, many people in positions of power didn’t like him. This caused him to be exiled twice, where he eventually died.
What I find remarkable about this man is his courage. He preached the truth of the gospel with power and conviction regardless of the audience. Political correctness had no hold on him. We are all sinners and each of us needs correction. Some find it more difficult to hear than others. Here, we have much to learn. Jesus calls us to spread the gospel. We are also called to receive and respond to the truth, even if we don’t necessarily like what it tells us.
St. John Chrysostom, pray for us! Anne
I ran across some quotes from St. John Chrysostom & thought you might enjoy them. He holds no punches!
A comprehended god is no god
The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others
Hell is paved with priests’ skulls
Poor human reason, when it trusts in itself, substitutes the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts
Men have the power of thinking that they may avoid sin
Slander is worse than cannibalism
Music withdraws our minds from earthly cogitations, lifts up our spirits into heaven, makes them light and celestial
As a moth gnaws a garment, so does envy consume
Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbor.
Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward & learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.
Helping a person in need is good in itself. But the degree of goodness is hugely affected by the attitude with which it is done. If you show resentment because you are helping the person out of a reluctant sense of duty, then the person may receive your help but may feel awkward and embarrassed. This is because he will feel beholden to you. If,on the other hand, you help the person in a spirit of joy, then the help will be received joyfully. The person will feel neither demeaned nor humiliated by your help, but rather will feel glad to have caused you pleasure by receiving your help. And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others because acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver.