He was age forty when he came to repent of his
wasted life. He was so moved by a sermon by the famous preacher John of Avila that
he roamed the streets screaming with sorrow for his sins. For a time he was so
demented that the authorities decided to put him a lunatic asylum.
John of Avila visited him and calmed him. In 1539 John of God left the hospital and began
to set up his own hostel for the poor. He sold wood to feed them and although he was
constantly short of money, the work prospered. The Archbishop of Granada gave his
support. John begged money from rich ladies. 'We receive here every kind of case,'
he wrote to one of them: 'cripples, paralytics, lepers, the deaf and dumb, the insane,
people with diseases of the skin, the old, children, pilgrims and vagrants.' The
work attracted many devoted helpers, 'Brothers Hospitallers',
who (after the saint's death) spread throughout Italy, Spain,
France and Central Europe.
In 1550 he leapt into the River Ximel to rescue a drowning child.
The shock brought on a fever which killed him. He was sixty-five years old.
From A Calendar of Saints, the Lives of the Principal
Saints of the Christian Year.
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