Patron Of Hospitals

Saint John of God

Feast Day: 8th March

Serving in a small private army for 14 years the future saint became accustomed to bad company, and gradually gave up the devout practices learnt in a simple and virtuous childhood. Then he returned to being a shepherd and began to feel remorse for his past wrongdoing. Determined to change his life, he wanted to find some way of being of service to those in need, and with this intention decided to leave his native Portugal for Africa to help the slaves there.

On reaching Gibraltar he met a Portuguese family on their way into exile, having lost all their property. John became their servant, working for no wages and nursing them when necessary.

He then decided to settle in Granada in Southern Spain where he opened a small shop selling holy pictures and religious books. In the same year, 1538, he heard a sermon by John of Avila (known as the Apostle of Andalusia) which touched him deeply: filled with sorrow for his sins he suffered a kind of mental breakdown, wandering the streets in great distress and crying out for mercy. He was taken to a hospital for the insane and subjected to the most severe treatment, all of which he endured gladly as a penance. After recovering, he worked for some time in the same hospital, helping to look after other patients. By the time he left there he had found his true vocation - to serve the poor and sick.

He rented a house and began to receive some of the very poorest people in the city, those who could not afford medical treatment elsewhere. Helpers joined him and in 1540, when he was 45 years old, the Order of Charity was founded. John devoted himself to the organisation of his little hospital and to constant prayer. During the day he would nurse his patients and in the evenings go into the city looking for other people to help. He was concerned not only with their physical well-being but also their spiritual welfare, often seeking out notorious sinners and begging them to repent.

John’s work soon became known to many wealthy benefactors, including the Archbishop of Granada who visited the hospital and was so impressed with its efficiency. John was granted a religious habit but it was only 20 years after his death that religious vows and rules were formally introduced.

After ten years of exhausting work, John fell ill. He was nursed in his final illness by a wealthy lady in her own home. He died on his knees at prayer, on 8 March 1550, aged 55. He was buried with great pomp in the presence of the rich and influential people of Grenada but, although honoured by princes, John always thought of himself as the most humble of sinners. He had great devotion to the sufferings of Jesus, and would often say, “Lord, Thy thorns are my roses.” He can truly be said to have shown his faith in good works, instructing his brothers, “Labour to do all the good works in your power while time is allowed you.”

Pope Leo Xlll made St. John of God patron of hospitals and of the sick. We pray for all who are sick, and for those who continue John's work by caring for them.

Although John was unaware of God's hand in the various stages of his life, He was planning for him to reach the glorious finish of being a servant to those in need, numbered among the saints who are the really important people in our world. We, too, can be like John, important in God's eyes when we do the little unnoticed things for those in need.

Saint John of God, pray for us.