Today we celebrate the feast of Saint John of Capistrano, a fifteenth century Franciscan saint. I knew little of this saint before writing this post. In fact, all I really knew was the fact that his name is connected to the California Mission, San Juan de Capistrano, the place to where migrating swallows return every year.
But, as usual, what I found is a pretty cool guy.
He studied law (after being homeschooled by his mom) and as such was appointed as governor of Perugia until war broke out with Malatesta. When John was sent to mediate peace, he was instead taken captive and thrown into jail. With nothing but time on his hands, John reflected on his life and his mortality and decided to give up the secular life. It is said that St. Francis appeared to him in a dream and told Saint John to enter the Franciscan Order.
He traversed Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Russia as an itinerant preacher attracting huge crowds wherever he went. The sick from all around came to see him in the hopes that he would heal them by making the sign of the cross over them. Along with Saint Bernadine, he held and propagated a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.
Saint John was also a prolific writer. I searched high and low for online versions of his writings, to little avail. I did find one short piece from today’s Liturgy of the Hours. The excerpt, “The lives of good clerics bring light and serenity” comes from his treatise, Mirror of the Clergy. He writes plainly and clearly to his brother clergy and challenges them to live exemplary lives. Reading it moves me to pray all the more for the clergy to live this ideal. Won’t you join me?
St. John of Capistrano, pray for us! Anne
I invite you to read more about his life here.
The lives of good clerics bring light and serenity
Those who are called to the table of the Lord must glow with the brightness that comes from the good example of a praiseworthy and blameless life. They must completely remove from their lives the filth and uncleanness of vice. Their upright lives must make them like the salt of the earth for themselves and for the rest of mankind. The brightness of their wisdom must make them like the light of the world that brings light to others. They must learn from their eminent teacher, Jesus Christ, what he declared not only to his apostles and disciples, but also to all the priests and clerics who were to succeed them, when he said: You are the salt of the earth. But what if salt goes flat? How can you restore its flavor? Then it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Truly the unclean, immoral cleric is trampled underfoot like worthless manure. He is saturated with the filth of vice and entangled in the chains of sin. In this condition he must be considered worthless both to himself and to others. As Gregory says: “When a man’s life is frowned upon, it follows that his preaching will be despised.”
Presbyters who are born leaders deserve to be doubly honored, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. It is indeed a double task that worthy priests perform, that is to say, it is both exterior and interior, both temporal and spiritual, and, finally, both a passing task and an eternal one.
Even though they dwell on earth and are bound by the same necessities of nature along with all mortal creatures, at the same time they are engaged in earnest communication with the angels in heaven, so that they may be pleasing to their king and learn how to serve him. Therefore, just as the sun rises over the world in God’s heaven, so clerics must let their light shine before men so that they may see their good deeds and give praise to their heavenly Father.
You are the light of the world. Now a light does not illumine itself, but instead it diffuses its rays and shines all around upon everything that comes into its view. So it must be with the glowing lives of upright and holy clerics. By the brightness of their holiness they must bring light and serenity to all who gaze upon them. They have been placed here to care for others. Their own lives should be an example to others, showing how they must live in the house of the Lord.