December 23: St. John of Kanty
This Polish saint was born in 1390, the son of good country folk. Seeing how intelligent their son was, they sent him to the University of Krakow. He did well in his studies. Then John became a priest, a teacher, and a preacher. He was also well-known for his great love of the poor. Once he was eating in the university dining hall. At the beginning of the meal, he happened to see a beggar passing by the window. Immediately, he jumped up and brought the man his dinner.
Some people became very jealous of St. John's success as a teacher and preacher. They finally managed to have him sent to a parish as a pastor. Here, he put his whole heart into the new life. At first, however, things did not go well at all. The people did not particularly care for John, and John was afraid of the responsibility. He did not give up, however, and his efforts brought results. By the time he was called back to the university, the people of his parish loved him dearly. They went part of the way with him. In fact, they were so sad to see him go that he had to tell them: "This sadness does not please God. If I have done any good for you in all these years, sing a song of joy."
Back in Krakow, St. John taught Bible classes and again became a very popular teacher. He was invited to the homes of rich nobles. Still, however, he gave everything he had to the poor and dressed very poorly himself. Once he wore an old black habit, called a cassock, to a banquet. The servants refused to let him in. St. John went home and changed into a new one. During the dinner, someone spilled a dish of food on the new cassock. "Never mind," said the saint with good humor, "my cassock deserves some food, anyway, because without it, I wouldn't have been here at all."
St. John lived to be eighty-three. Again and again during all those years he cleaned out everything he owned to help the poor. When people burst into tears on hearing that he was dying, he said, "Don't worry about this prison which is decaying. Think of the soul that is going to leave it." He died in 1473 and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XIII in 1767.
"With [St. John's] humility went a rare and childlike simplicity: the thoughts of his heart were revealed in his words and actions…. The God in his heart and the God on his lips were one and the same God." -Pope Clement XII