December 4: St. John Damascene
St. John lived in the eighth century. He was born in the city of Damascus of a good Christian family. When his father died, he became the governor of Damascus. At this time, the emperor made a law. It forbade Christians from having statues or pictures of Our Lord and the saints. St. John Damascene knew the emperor was wrong. He joined with many others to defend this practice of the Christians. The pope himself asked John to keep telling people that it is a good thing to have statues and holy pictures. They make us think of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother and the saints. But the emperor would not give in to the Holy Father. He continued to forbid statues to be put in public places. St. John bravely wrote three letters. He told the emperor to give up his wrong ideas.
The emperor became so furious that he wanted revenge. John decided he should resign as governor. He gave away all his money to the poor and became a monk. He kept on writing marvelous books to defend the Catholic religion. At the same time he did all kinds of humble work in the monastery. One day he even went to sell baskets in the streets of Damascus. Many of those who had known him before were mean enough to laugh at him. Here was the man who had once been the great governor of the city now selling baskets. Imagine how St. John must have suffered. But he knew that the money received would be put to good use at the monastery. He thought of Jesus, the Son of God, who wanted to be born in a stable. Then he felt happy to imitate Our Lord's humility.
St. John died a peaceful, happy death in the year 749.
Although St. John was a very intelligent and educated person, he possessed a deep humility, shown in a line he once wrote, calling himself "a lowly and useless servant, who would do better to confess his sins to God than to become involved in theological and political matters."