On this day: St. John of God

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. John of God, who died at Granada on March 8, 1550.

When he felt "that his time had come, he lifted himself out of the bed and embracing a crucifix, knelt upon the floor where he remained for a short while in silence. Then remaining in that position he said, 'Jesus, Jesus, into your hands I commend my soul.' Then he gave his soul back to his Creator. He was fifty?five years of age and he had spent twelve of these serving the poor in his hospital at Granada."

To read the earliest biography of St. John of God, written by "one who lived and worked with the first John of God community", click here. "Francisco de Castro was the chaplain at John of God’s hospital at Granada. As a youth he knew the Saint and he used material gathered from eyewitnesses and contemporaries of his subject. It was published at the express wish of the Archbishop of Granada who gave financial backing to its publication."

The English translation was done by Brother Benedict O'Grady, O.H., of the Oceania Province. (To go directly to Chapter One, scroll down an inch.)

John was a shepherd, an infantryman, a construction worker, and a bookseller before being confined to "the Royal Hospital where the city's insane are put away for treatment. . . . The cures they used for such cases like his consisted of flogging and placing the afflicted person into a dismal dungeon. They used other similar methods as well, so that by means of inflicting pain and punishment, the patients might shed their madness and regain their sanity. So they stripped him naked and tying him up by the hands and feet, they flayed him with a doubly knotted whip".

After his release, John opened his first hospital "near the fish market close to the Plaza Bibarrambla. Here he brought all the abandoned sick and cripples he found". John of God devoted the remaining years of his life to caring for the sick of mind and body, the poor, prostitutes, the dying, the disabled, anyone who came to him for help.

Other men joined him in his work. After his death, still more "men were inspired to imitate him and to follow in his footsteps in serving the poor. They sought to serve God alone in the way of hospitality. They had no need of learning and studies for they were well endowed with the love of God, charity, humility and worldly detachment. Because they lacked education they were unacceptable to other orders which nevertheless encouraged them and also encouraged others to join up with them."

The Order of Hospitallers is international now, serving in fifty-one countries.

One of their most famous hospitals, in Stillorgan, County Dublin, is mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses. Barney Kiernan, owner of a pub, is "out in John of God's off his head, poor man".

Macmann, in Samuel Beckett's Malone Dies, is another patient in the Stillorgan Hospital.

Click here for the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God.

Click here for the Wiki article on the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God. At the bottom of the page is a link to the Vatican Pharmacy, which they run.

Click here to read the notice of Brother Benedict O'Grady's death last June in the Hospitaller Order's Asia Pacific Inter-Provincial Commission's News. (Scroll down halfway.)

A very happy feast to the Brothers Hospitallers and to their co-workers, patients, clients, students, and friends. Best wishes for the Year of the Family of St. John of God, 2011-2012.

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