John was born to a Calabrian couple of Stilo. Before he was born, his father was killed, and his mother was taken as a slave by Saracens to Palermo. It was there that John was born. John grew up as a Christian in a Muslim world. At age 14 he escaped and fled to Calabria crossing the straits of Messina in a boat with no ores or sails.
When he arrived on the Calabrian shore, the natives took him for a Moor as he was dressed as a Muslim. He was taken to the bishop and declared that he wanted to be baptized but the bishop refused until the boy underwent excruciating trials.
It when he was fully a Christian that he felt the call to the monastic life and was admitted into a community of monks residing in caves near Stilo. He became so admired that he eventually grew to elected abbot. His virtue was beyond repute. One story says that he found a treasure that had belonged to his family but rather than keep it, distributed it among the poor.
Another story speaks of a time he was off to visit a knight who was a benefactor of the monastery. He offered the bread and wine he had brought to poor farmers working in the fields. As a furious storm was threatening as the farmers were harvesting. John prayed and the storm held off until all the wheat had been gathered, saving those poor souls from starvation. It is from his help to the farmers he earned the nickname, “Theristis” (reaper).
Another miracle attributed to John Theristis concerns the healing of a festering wound on the face of King Roger. When touched by John’s tunic, it healed. Other similar cures are attributed to John. In thanks, Roger II founded the monastery of St. John named after the saint.
Today, John Theristis is venerated by the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: Online, C. (n.d.). St. John Theristus – Saints & Angels. Catholic Online. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2021, from https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4053