Feast of John the Divine
Blessed Adelheidis of Tennenbach, OSB Cist. V (PC)
Died 1273. Born into the aristocratic family of Thöningen, Adelheidis sanctified herself as a recluse of the Cistercian abbey of Tennenbach (Benedictines).
Blessed Bonaventure Tolomei, OP (PC)
Born in Siena, Tuscany, Italy; died there in 1348. As a child, Bonaventure was favored with divine charismata, but like so many young adults he forgot God's love. For four years he abandoned himself to a life of impurity and sacrilege. Eventually he repented and did penance by visiting on foot all the important shrines. Thereafter, he returned to Siena and entered the Dominican order. He died while tending to his plague-stricken fellow citizens (Benedictines).
Fabiola of Rome, Widow (AC)
Died c. 400. Not even a bad marriage can stop us from becoming saints. In fact, it may be the impetus to reach for Christian perfection. Fabiola was divorced, remarried, explained, praised by Saint Jerome. Fabiola was a Roman patrician of the Fabii family who married a very young man of equal rank but of debauched habits. She divorced him. Then she united herself to another man, causing great scandal in Rome, because this was contrary to the ordinances of the Church. Both men died soon after and Fabiola was re-admitted into communion after she performed public penance. Not only did she complete the required penance, Fabiola completely changed her life. She forsook her luxurious lifestyle and devoted her great wealth to good works. With the help of Saint Paula's widowed son-in-law Saint Pammachius, Fabiola founded the first hospital of its kind to care for indigent patients brought in from the streets and alleyways of Rome. Here Fabiola personally tended to the needs of the sick.
In 395, she visited her friend Saint Jerome in the Holy Land with the intention of entering the convent at Bethlehem and sharing in Jerome's biblical work. Whether she returned to Rome because Jerome dissuaded her from staying or because she was temperamentally unsuited for the quiet life, we don't know. Jerome says that her idea of the solitude of the stable of Bethlehem was that it should not be cut off from the crowded inn. Nevertheless, she travelled with Jerome and his companions when they fled to Jaffa to escape the dissension building among the leading Palestinian Christians and the threatened invasion of the Huns.
Upon his advice, she returned to Rome from Jaffa and founded and enthusiastically superintended a hostel for sick and needy pilgrims near the city at Porto. This is another of Fabiola's innovations; one which Jerome says soon became known from Parthia to Britain. Apparently not even this undertaking was enough to sap Fabiola's abundant energies. At the time of her death she was planning a new enterprise that would take her abroad. The veneration in which she is held in Rome was demonstrated by the great multitudes that followed her funeral with chants of Alleluia.
Jerome dedicated to Fabiola a treatise on Aaron's priesthood and another on the 'stations' of the Israelites in the desert. This wandering of the chosen people seemed to him a type of Fabiola's life and death (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer). For more information on Fabiola, click here.
Blessed Hesso (Esso) of Beinwil, OSB, Abbot (AC)
Died 1133. Hesso was a disciple of Saint William of Hirschau and served in that Benedictine monastery as a monk and procurator. In 1085, he was sent as the first abbot to the monastery of Beinwil, Switzerland (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
John Stone, OSA Priest M (RM)
Born in Canterbury, England; died there 1538-1539; canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales; feast day formerly May 12. John was an Augustinian friar of the Canterbury community. He held a doctorate in Divinity and was highly respected for his erudition. He served as a professor and prior at Droitwich for a time but was back at Canterbury when Henry VIII began his divorce proceedings. John denounced the claims of Henry to ecclesiastical supremacy from the pulpit, was arrested in December 1538, imprisoned at Westgate, and when he reiterated his condemnation of the Act of Supremacy, was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Canterbury before December 1539 (Benedictines, Delaney).
John the Divine, Apostle and Evangelist (RM)
Born in Galilee, c. 6 AD; died c. 104; feast day in the Eastern Church is September 26.
John, the "beloved disciple" of our Lord (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2ff; 21:7; 21:24), is said to have written the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, while exiled on the island of Patmos off the coast of modern Turkey. His book is a superb conclusion to the Holy Scripture. The book of Genesis begins the account of man's spiritual odyssey by describing our expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Book of Revelation is a vision of encouragement to await our restoration to Paradise.
John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the younger brother of James the Great. These two brothers earned their livelihood as fishermen on Lake Genesareth until they were called by Jesus to be fishers of men (Matt. 4:21-22; Mark 1:19-20). The youngest of the Apostles (estimated at about 25 at the time of his call), John, seems to have been a follower of John the Baptist, so particularly does he relate all the circumstances of the precursor's life, yet through modesty conceals his own name, as in other parts of the Gospel bearing his name.
Christ gave James and John the surname of "Boanerges"--The Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17)--to express their passionate natures. They wanted to call down fire from Heaven on the Samaritans who rejected Christ (Luke 9:54-56) and they said they were willing to suffer as witnesses to Jesus' suffering (Mark 10:35-41). This holy boldness would benefit the faith by allowing them to make the law of God known without fearing the power of men.
Why was John beloved of Christ? First, the love that John bore Him, then his general meekness and peaceable disposition that made him very much like Our Lord himself, and his singular privilege of chastity, his virginal purity rendered him worthy of this more particular love.
Saint Augustine says, "He was chosen by our Lord, a virgin, and he always remained such." Augustine also wrote, "Christ was pleased to choose a virgin for his mother, a virgin for his precursor, and a virgin for his favorite disciple. His church suffers only those who live perfectly chaste to serve Him in His priesthood, where they daily touch and offer His virginal flesh upon the altar."
That John was one of those closest to Jesus is demonstrated by the fact that only he, Peter, and James were present at such events as the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28), the healing of Peter's mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), the raising of Jairus's daughter from the dead (Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:40-56), and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37ff; Mark 14:33ff). For this reason, Saint Paul names John, Peter, and James as "these leaders, these pillars" of the Church in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9).
He and Peter were sent to prepare the Passover (Luke 22:8ff) and were the first Apostles at the tomb of the Risen Christ (John 20:3- 8). At the Last Supper, he leaned upon his Master's breast. John was the only Apostle at the Crucifixion, where Jesus entrusted His mother to the care of His friend (John 19:25-27).
He was at the court because he was known to the high-priest, and, as he tells us, he managed to get Saint Peter admitted by the servants into the Court of Caiaphas (John 18:15-16).
Later, when Christ appeared to them on the lake and ate with them upon the shore John, by instinct, knew who it was and gave word to Peter (John 21:7). Together they walked along the edge of the lake. Seeing John following, Peter being solicitous for his friend asked our Lord what would now become of him, thinking perhaps He would show him some special favor. "What is that to thee?" our Lord asked: "So I will have him to remain until I come; follow thou me." The supposition arose among the disciples that John would not die, but he himself took care to tell us that no such thing was meant (John 21:20-23).
He lived for about 70 years after the death of Jesus. For much of that time John continued to be associated with the chief of the Apostles, Saint Peter. The two are together when the lame man is healed at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-11). He was imprisoned with Peter and appeared before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-21). He accompanied Peter to Samaria (Acts 8:14) to transmit the Holy Spirit to the new converts. John must have remained in Jerusalem a number of years after Jesus' Ascension, though he sometimes preached abroad, for Saint Paul some years after his conversion met him there and John confirmed him in his mission to the Gentiles. He probably assisted at the Council of Jerusalem c. 49-51.
Tradition says that his apostolic labors were first to the Jews in the provinces of Parthia, where he planted the Christian faith. In all probability, John was present at the passing of Mary. He came again to Jerusalem in the year 62, to confer with the other apostles who were still living. After this he went to Ephesus and made Lesser Asia his peculiar care, where he established churches and governed the congregations.
His apostolic authority was universal, for though Saint Timothy remained Bishop of Ephesus, until his martyrdom in 97, there was no difference between them on account of jurisdiction. It is probable that he put bishops in all the churches in Asia, for while the apostles lived, they supplied the churches by their own appointments, in virtue of their commission from Christ himself.
A beautiful story about John is handed down to us by Saint Clement of Alexandria. Near the end of his life, having returned to Ephesus from Patmos, at one place Saint John chose a young man for the priesthood, whom he was much taken with. He left him in charge of a tutor, to be instructed, baptized, and confirmed. On his return to the same place some time afterward he said to the tutor: "Restore to me the trust which Jesus Christ and I committed to you in the presence of your congregation." "Alas," they said, "he is dead." "Dead? Of what did he die?" inquired the saint. "He is dead to God," they replied.
After his instruction and baptism he fell into bad company, sank from one degree of wickedness to another, forsook the Church, even became the leader of a robber-band. John pursued him in his mountain fastness and coming up with him implored him, saying, "There is yet room for repentance; your salvation is not irrecoverable. I will answer for you to Jesus Christ. I am ready most willingly to lay down my life for you, as Jesus laid down his life for all men. Stay, believe me, I am sent by Christ."
The young neophyte stood still, his eyes cast upon the ground and he burst into tears. He embraced his tender father and implored forgiveness. He found a second baptism in his tears. The saint kissed him affectionately and restored him by the holy Sacraments to God and to the Church. This great vein of charity runs through the whole life and writings of Saint John; it is the great and peculiar law of the Christian faith, without which all pretensions to a divine religion would be vain and worthless.
Another story tells of the shock of some visitors finding John playing with his disciples. He told one of the visitors, who was carrying a bow, to shoot an arrow. The visitor complied by shooting several. John then asked him if he could do that without stopping. No, the other answered, the bow would break. That's the way our spirit is, the blessed one concluded: it would break if one did not sometimes relax the tension. In daily life, games and pranks allow the spirit to rest. One must know how to pause: that is the role of games (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Question 169, Article 10, Summa Theologica).
Other anecdotes are recorded, such as John's fear that the baths at which the heretic Cerinthus was bathing would fall down because he was in them. Other traditions have influenced artistic representations of the saint.
In the year 95, during the second general persecution under Emperor Domitian, John was apprehended in Asia and sent to Rome as a prisoner, where he miraculously escaped martyrdom. Tertullian says that he emerged unscathed from a cauldron of boiling oil. His persecutors attributed the miracle to sorcery and he was exiled to the island of Patmos. Until its removal from the Roman calendar in 1960, this event used to be commemorated liturgically in the Western Church on May 6, as the Feast of Saint John before the Latin Gate (ante Portam Latinam). On account of this trial he is given also the title martyr, although he was the only Apostle who did not suffer martyrdom. He did, however, thus fulfill what Christ had foretold that he should drink of his chalice of suffering.
In the following year he was banished to the island of Patmos, where in this retirement, in his extreme old age, he was favored with the heavenly vision recorded in the Book of Revelation (this is the legend, folks). His exile was not of long duration, for at the death of Domitian, all his edicts were declared void by the senate because of his excessive cruelty.
John was free to return and he reached Ephesus again in 97. Some think that he wrote his Gospel on his return, when he was 92 years old. The tradition that identifies John as the author of the Fourth Gospel goes back to the 2nd century. It is certain, thanks to the discovery of the Chester-Beatty fragment, that it was committed to writing by the beginning of the 2nd century, or earlier. Though his authorship is disputed, it is strongly supported by internal and external reasons. There seems to be no compelling reason for rejecting the identification of John with the beloved disciple of the Gospel who was a witness to the events described. Written later than the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John is highly theological and stresses the divinity of Christ, possibly as a counter to the Docetist heresy.
The Book of Revelation, also ascribed to him, is so different in thought, style, and content from the genuine Johannine writings that it seems more likely to have been the product of John's followers.
When weakness grew upon him and he was no longer able to preach, he would be carried into the assembly of the faithful. Constantly he was heard to say: "My dear children, love one another"--and when asked why he so often repeated the same words, he said, "Because it is the precept of the Lord and if you comply with it you do enough." Saint Jerome says: "These words ought to be engraved in characters of gold and written in the heart of every Christian." Saint John died at Ephesus when he was over 90 years old (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Green-Armytage, Lawrie, Murray, White).
Saint John is generally represented as a young and beautiful man; when he is shown as a patriarch, he still looks as though he is capable of playing with children.
When portrayed as a young man at times he is shown (1) in scenes from the Gospel and Passion of Christ, or Acts of the Apostles as in ; (2) writing the Book of Revelation on the island of Patmos (sometimes the devil flies away with his inkpot) as in these works by Hieronymus Bosch, Hans Burgkmair the Elder, Hans Memling, and Nicolas Poussin; (3) with an eagle (representing the soaring majesty of his Gospel) and the book of the Gospel; (4) with a chalice from which a serpent or little dragon emerges (see the legend below under patronage); (5) boiled in oil at the Latin Gate, but unharmed.
When he is shown in old age, he is either (1) reading, writing, or holding his epistle, (2) raising Drusilla from the dead, or (3) carried to heaven (Correggio: Passing Away of St. John) (Roeder).
During the medieval period, John's statue appeared on the rood beam in churches (White).
Saint John is the patron of art dealers, bookbinders, booksellers, compositors, engravers, lithographers, painters, printers, publishers, papermakers, sculptors, writers (Roeder), and Asiatic Turkey (White). He is invoked for protection against poison, which originates from the legend that he was offered a poisoned cut by the high priest of Diana, and he drank without incurring harm as per Jesus' prophecy (Mark 16:18) (White).
Maximus of Alexandria B (RM)
Died 282. Maximus was an Alexandrian priest who administered the see from 251 to 264, while the patriarch, Saint Dionysius, was in exile. Upon the death of Dionysius, Maximus succeeded him as bishop of Alexandria during a period of calm. Maximus drove Paul of Samosata into exile from Egypt (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Nicarete (Niceras) of Constantinople V (RM)
Born in Nicomedia; died c. 405. Nicarete resided at Constantinople, where she became a loyal friend of Saint John Chrysostom, whose exile and suffering she shared. Her ears were not torn off by the soldiers who stole the earrings of the Christians of Constantinople whom they were deporting, because she had given away all her jewels long before (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Theodore M and Theophanes B (RM)
Born in Kerak, Moab (Trans-Jordan), c. 775 and c. 778; died at Apamea, Bithynia, c. 841 and at Nicaea, October 11, 845, respectively. Theodore and Theophanes were blood and spiritual brothers, who were raised in Jerusalem. They both became monks of St. Sabas's laura in Jerusalem, where they were admired for their intelligence and model behavior. For their vehement defense of the veneration of sacred images, the two were cruelly persecuted by the Byzantine emperors. At the urging of the patriarch of Jerusalem Theodore was ordained a priest. The patriarch then sent him as emissary to the court in Constantinople to persuade Emperor Leo the Armenian not to interfere in ecclesiastical matters. Leo ordered the scourging of Theodore and exiled the two brothers on an island in the Black Sea, where they suffered hunger and harsh weather. They returned to their monastery in 820, after Leo's death.
In 829, Emperor Theophilus took power, denounced the use of images, and tortured and banished the brothers. They were recalled to Constantinople in 831. After they refused discussions with the iconoclasts, a 12-line iambic verse was cut in the flesh of their faces (and for this reason they are called Graptoi or "the written upon"). The verse read: "These men have appeared at Jerusalem as vessels full of the iniquity of superstitious error, and were driven thence for their crimes. Having fled to Constantinople, they forsook not their impiety. Wherefore they have been banished from thence and thus stigmatized on their faces." The operation took two days to cut into the flesh of their foreheads.
They were then banished to Apamea, Bithynia. Theodore died first, while he was in prison, of the terrible sufferings he endured. Theophanes, according to the Roman Martyrology, survived to become bishop of Nicaea and a poet. He wrote several hymns, including one about his brother (Benedictines, Delaney, White).
Blessed Walto of Wessobrünn, OSB, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Balto)
Died 1156. Walto, abbot of Wessobrünn in Bavaria, attracted many friends and benefactors to the abbey because of his goodness and ability to work miracles (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.