“I give myself to God. What I have is yours.”
Feast day: March 8
Patron of: heart ailments
A Portuguese mercenary who fought in several wars, sold slaves, and lived hard, John was known to “think with his heart” by acting impulsively. At the age of 40, retired from the army and a book dealer in Granada, he heard a sermon that changed his life. He became as extreme in his dedication to his religious life as he had once been to his life as a soldier.
He tested the physical limits of his own heart by serving the sick and poor with an intense fervor. He is invoked by those plagued with heart conditions for protection against heart attacks. Brought up by pious and simple people, John had left home for a life of adventure when he was still a young boy. He worked as a shepherd and as soon as he was able, he enlisted in an army regiment. By the time his regiment disbanded, John was weary of the immoral life he led as a soldier. When he went to find his parents, he was told by an uncle that they had both died grief stricken over his disappearance. John vowed to live a better life and began selling pious pictures from town to town.
On the road to Granada he met a barefoot child on the road who he offered to carry. To his surprise the child became heavier and heavier. When John put the child down at a fountain, the child gave him the title he would always be known as, saying, “John of God, Granada shall be your cross,” before disappearing. It was in Granada that he opened his book store and heard the sermon of John of Avila which shattered his existence. The thought of all the wrongs he committed in his life drove him to madness. Incarcerated in a filthy hospital, he suffered the mistreatment of the insane first hand. As he recovered his sanity, he began helping the nursing staff. Upon his release, he devoted the rest of his life to the sick and destitute, never forgetting how terribly they were treated in the local institutions. He founded the Order of the Brother Hospitallers and opened a hospital, funding it by begging in the streets. When his hospital was burning down, he ran in and carried each patient out one by one.
He is frequently depicted carrying a hospital patient. Because of this he is also considered a patron of firefighters. While recovering from an illness, John of God leapt into a river in an unsuccessful attempt at rescuing a drowning boy. He died on his 55th birthday from an over-exhausted heart.
The symbol of Granada is the pomegranate, it is also a fruit with many seeds, which John’s Order took as a symbol of their founder’s spiritual influence.
Novena Prayer to St. John of God for a Cure
Invoked Against: alcoholism, heart attack
Saint John of God, heavenly Patron of the Sick, I come to you in prayer to seek your help in my present sickness. Through the love which Jesus had for you in choosing you for the sublime vocation of serving the sick, and through the tender affection with which the Blessed Virgin Mary placed upon your head a crown of thorns as a symbol of the sufferings you would undergo in the service of the sick to attain to your crown of glory, I beg you to intercede for me to Jesus and Mary that They may grant me a cure, if this should be according to the Will of God.
How patiently you bore the sufferings of your own disease! Teach me to carry with cheerful resignation the cross that God has given me. Let me never complain or lose courage. Help me to understand that suffering is a very important means of sanctifying my soul, of atoning for my many sins, and of reaping a plentiful harvest of merit for Heaven. I trust in your great love for the sick and in the power of your intercession to help them. Help me, good St. John, and beg the God whose name you bear to touch me as He touched the sick while on earth, that through His almighty power health may return to my body. And as you derived strength in your own sufferings from the crucifix, so may I be able to say what you did to Jesus Crucified: “Lord, Thy thorns are my roses and Thy sufferings my paradise.”
Good Saint John, lover of those who suffer and special Patron of the Sick, I confidently place before you my earnest petition. (Mention your request.) I beg you to recommend my request to Mary, the Mother of Sorrows and Health of the Sick, that both Mary and you may present it to Jesus, the Divine Physician. Saint John of God, patron of the Sick and beloved of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request. (Three times.) In honor of Saint John of God: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Saint John of God, Patron of the Sick, pray for us.