“For just as water extinguishes a fire,
just so does charity blot out our sins.”
– St. John of God (Faith)
Giving in to our impulses is not often seen as part of the spiritual walk, especially when they are from our weak human nature. However, God places a variety of impulses within us; and it takes faith and discernment to live out the ones that draw us closer to Him. When we struggle with lukewarmness or make every excuse under the sun to avoid or delay doing something that is holy and profitable, let us look to one of the saints whose feast day was this week on March 8.
“John of God is patron saint of booksellers, printers, heart patients, hospitals, nurses, the sick, and firefighters and is considered the founder of the Brothers Hospitallers.” (Saints)
For most of his life, St John of God led a sinful life in which he sought worldly pleasure. In his young age he was a soldier, a shepherd, and a book peddler. He was a very impulsive man giving in easily to the current impulse of his heart. At an older age, he began to see a need for repentance and a change of lifestyle.
It was from one sermon by St. John of Avila on repentance that St. John of God’s conversion was swift and steadfast. His change of mind was so swift and so extreme that his actions of penance and his expression of guilt as he ran throughout the town were deemed insane. He was sent to an asylum where he endured all the cruel treatment customary of his time for those deemed insane. He considered it as just punishment for his sins and gladly endured in reparation for his sins.
However, it was through the counsel of St. John of Avila, who visited him in the asylum, that a new peace came over him. St. John of Avila told him that he needed to use his life for the building up of people instead of for self-mortification. He needed to use his life to glorify God through the service of others. He decided to use his gifts to provide respectful care for the sick after his own degrading experience in the hospital.
Rather than keeping him from God, his impulsive nature now led him to do heroic seemingly crazy things for others. He acted rashly for his desire to love God and care for others drove him to put them before his own needs. Immediately he began to focus on caring for those with him in the asylum and then to other areas of the hospital when released. He then determined he needed to start his own hospital to care for the poor on the street.
Instances of his radical commitment would include selling all he had. He was almost severely punished when, upon seeing a starving family, he ran into a nearby house and stole a pot of food. As others stood by just watching, he rushed into a burning hospital building to save the patients first then blankets and other expensive supplies. In his tireless passion to serve others, he started a hospital for the poor without any money or even a building at first. He would beg for anything he could get to help and gave everything he collected to those in his care. God continued to provide for all that St. John needed for his service to the sick, homeless, and poor. His showed profound care and respect for each person no matter whether it was physical or mental health issues that ailed them. His joy and love for service was such an example that others began to follow him, and he found generous patrons who supported his cause. It was the people he served with and those whom he served who began to call him “John of God.”
He continued to serve others with everything he could, and the work he did eventually took its toll on his health. While he knew he was gravely sick, he quietly began to prepare his hospital for his death to be sure it would continue after him. However, he did not tell anyone because he did not want to elicit extra support or concern for himself. Even as he knew of his grave illness, he jumped into a cold river to help to save a boy from drowning. Though he was not able to save him, this final act of service without delay or counting the cost exacerbated his illness. He died on his birthday March 8 at the age of 55. With all that was left in him, he knelt before a crucifix and passed away into God’s arms.
That one sermon produced tremendous fruit in St. John of God for he was fully committed to his new life for God and wanted to use all his energy and life to do the utmost to serve God. He was frequently heard saying “Labour without intermission to do all the good works in your power, whilst time is allowed you.” (St John of God)
May St John of God’s intense love that drove him to serve without delay, inspire us to serve with speed whomever God places in our path!
“When you feel the urge to serve, help, or pray do you act on it or argue yourself out of it? Today if you feel an impulse to do good, do it immediately as John of God would have done without thinking of how practical or how embarrassing it might be.” (Saints)
For reflection and action:
- What have you been putting off doing for the love of God or for the good of others? Delay no longer and put it into action like St. John of God.
- Learn more about the life of St. John of God for there is so much more to learn. Watch this video with your kids to hear more about his life.
- Pray that we will be open to God’s will more quickly and that our hearts will jump without delay in service to Him and others!
- Pray that those who are sick might be treated with the kind of loving service that St. John of God provided.
St. John of God, pray for us and for the world!
Photo By Manuel Gómez-Moreno González – , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19278236
Faith quote retrieved from https://faithmag.com/st-john-god-feast-day-march-8
St. John of God quote retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/st-john-of-god-5580
Saint quote retrieved from https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=68
Author: Laura Stephens