St. John of God, St. Apollonius and Philemon
St. John of God
Having given up active Christian belief while a soldier, John 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 at once for Africa, where he hoped to free captive Christians and,
possibly, be martyred.
He was soon advised that his desire for martyrdom was not
spiritually well based, and returned to Spain and the relatively prosaic activity of a religious
goods store. Yet he was still not settled. Moved initially by a sermon of Blessed John of Avila, he
one day engaged in a public beating of himself, begging mercy and wildly repenting for his past
Committed to a mental hospital for these actions, John was visited by Blessed 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 wisely 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 were the archbishop and marquis of
Behind John's outward acts of total concern and love for Christ's sick poor was a deep
interior prayer life which 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
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.
Other Saints of the