(1495 -1550)

You don’t need to travel far away to do God’s work.

John had given up his Christian beliefs while a soldier. He was 40 before the depth of his sinfulness began to dawn on him. He decided to give the rest of his life to God’s service and headed to Africa where he hoped to free captive Christians and, possibly, be martyred.

He was advised that his desire for martyrdom was not spiritually based and returned to Spain to work in a religious goods store, still feeling unsettled. Moved by a sermon of St. John of Avila, he one day engaged in a public beating of himself, begging mercy and wildly repenting for his past life.

John was committed to a mental hospital for these actions. There he was visited by St. John, who advised him to be more actively involved in tending to the needs of others rather than in enduring personal hardships. John gained peace of heart, and shortly after left the hospital to begin work among the poor.

He established a house where he tended to the needs of the sick poor, at first doing his own begging. But excited by the saint’s great work and inspired by his devotion, many people began to back him up with money and provisions. Among them was the archbishop and marquis of Tarifa.

In addition to outward acts of concern and love for Christ’s sick poor, John had a deep interior prayer life that was reflected in his spirit of humility. These qualities attracted helpers who, 20 years after John’s death, formed the Brothers Hospitallers, now a worldwide religious order.

John became ill after 10 years of service but tried to disguise his ill health. He began to put the hospital’s administrative work into order and appointed a leader for his helpers. He died under the care of a spiritual friend and admirer, Lady Ana Ossorio.

Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: St. John of God | Franciscan Media. (n.d.). Franciscan Media. Retrieved March 2, 2021, from