Ordinary Time: October 23rd
Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time; Optional Memorial of St. John of Capistrano, priest
Other Commemorations: St. Anthony Mary Claret
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John was a native of Capistrano, in Italy. He became a Franciscan and was one of the great organizers of the struggle against the Mohammedans in the 15th century, when they threatened to overrun the whole of Europe. Mohammed II had taken Constantinope and was already marching against Belgrade, when Pope Callixtus III called St. John to preach the crusade; assisted by the Hungarian John Hunyadi, he gathered a strong Christian army, which defeated the Turks in the great battle of Belgrade (1453). He died in 1456.
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, St. John of Capistrano's feast is celebrated on March 28 and today is the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret which is now observed on October 24 in the Ordinary Rite.
St. John of Capistrano
St. John was born in 1386 at Capistrano in the Italian Province of the Abruzzi. His father was a German knight and died when he was still young. St. John became a lawyer and attained the position of governor of Perugia. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, St. John tried to broker a peace. Unfortunately, his opponents ignored the truce and St. John became a prisoner of war. On the death of his wife he entered the order of Friars Minor, was ordained and began to lead a very penitential life.
John became a disciple of Saint Bernadine of Siena and a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420. The world at the time was in need of strong men to work for salvation of souls. Thirty percent of the population was killed by the Black Plague, the Church was split in schism and there were several men claiming to be pope. As an Itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, St. John preached to tens of thousands and established communities of Franciscan renewal. He reportedly healed the sick by making the Sign of the Cross over them. He also wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.
He was successful in reconciling heretics. After the fall of Constantinople, he preached a crusade against the Muslim Turks. At age 70 he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Moslems.
Patronage: chaplains; jurists; judges; military chaplains.
Symbols and Representation: man with a crucifix and lance, treading a turban underfoot; Franciscan with cross on his breast and carrying banner of the cross; Franciscan preaching, angels with rosaries and IHS above him; Franciscan pointing to a crucifix which he holds; crucifix; IHS banner; red cross; star.
Highlights and Things to Do:
- St. John struggled with finding his vocation. Younger people can pray to St. John for help in discerning God's will for their lives.
- Learn more about the times that St. John Capistrano lived, such as the Crusades, the Black Plague, anti-popes.
- St. John is the patron of jurists. We can turn to him to help discern major decisions. We can also follow his example of strict self-discipline in order to think more clearly.
- In 1776 in Southern California, Father Junipera Serra founded the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, named for St. John, for mission work to the Indians. The mission is a historical site, and has both a Catholic Basilica and the original smaller chapel that are still used for Catholic liturgy. See the Wikipedia page. There is also a tradition of the swallows returning to San Juan every March 19. Find out more about this annual event.