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Thursday, September 18, 2014
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St. John the Almsgiver

St. John the Almsgiver
Feast Day: January 23
Born:(around)550 :: Died:619

St. John was born at Arnathus, in Cyprus, Greece and came from a rich family. He married and had a child. John was a good Christian who used his wealth and position to help poor people. When John's wife and child died of a disease, John became a priest and then a bishop.

In 608, he was given a very important position and made the patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt. St. John went to his new ministry determined to heal the divisions among his people. He made himself a promise that he would practice "charity without limits."

As he had come to serve, the first thing he did was ask for a complete list of his "masters" - the poor. When they were counted, the poor of Alexandria numbered 7,500. St. John promised to be their personal protector.

As patriarch, St. John made many changes to the way things were done and set new rules. He was respectful and kind, but firm. He set aside two days each week, Wednesday and Friday, and made himself available for anyone who wanted to see him.

People lined up in queues and waited patiently for their turn. Some were rich. Some were homeless and penniless. St. John treaded them all with the same respect and attention. When he found out that the church funds 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 enough money to support themselves. Refugees from neighboring areas were welcomed warmly. When the Persians attacked and robbed the people of Jerusalem of their wealth, St. John sent money and supplies to the suffering people. He even sent Egyptian workmen to help them rebuild their churches.

When people asked 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 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 grew 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. Because of his great charity, he is called "the almsgiver."

St. John died peacefully on November 11, 619.


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