St. John the Almsgiver
John was a dedicated Christian nobleman. He used his wealth and position to help poor people. After his wife passed away, John became a priest and bishop. In 608, he was consecrated the patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt. What could people expect of this man who now had such an important position? St. John went to his new ministry focused on healing the divisions among his people. He pledged himself to practice a "charity without limits." The first thing he did was ask for a complete list of his "masters." He was asked to explain. He meant the poor. When they were counted, the poor of Alexandria numbered 7,500. St. John pledged to be their personal protector.
As patriarch, St. John proclaimed laws and issued reforms. He was respectful and kind, but firm. He devoted two days each week, Wednesday and Friday, to making himself available for anyone who wished to see him. People lined up and waited patiently for their turn. Some were rich. Some were homeless and destitute. All received the same respect and attention. When he found out that the church treasury had eighty thousand pieces of gold, he divided it all among the hospitals and monasteries. He set up a system so that poor people received adequate money and means to support themselves. Refugees from neighboring areas were welcomed warmly. After the Persians had plundered Jerusalem, St. John sent money and supplies to the suffering people. He even sent Egyptian workmen to assist in rebuilding the churches there.
When people wanted to know how St. John could be so charitable and unselfish, he had an amazing answer. Once when he was very young he had a dream or vision. He saw a beautiful girl and he realized that she represented "charity." She told him: "I am the oldest daughter of the King. If you are devoted to me, I will lead you to Jesus. No one is as powerful with him as I am. Remember, it was for me that he became a baby to redeem humankind." St. John never tired of telling about that vision. He gently led the rich to be generous. He helped the poor trust that God would always be there for them.
St. John died peacefully on November 11, 619. Because of his great charity, he is called "the almsgiver."
How often do I close my eyes to the need of people who cry for help? Do I seriously heed Jesusí invitation to be aware of his presence in others?