John was born on March 8, 1495, in Portugal. Impetuous throughout his life, he ran away from home at age eight to travel to Spain with a visiting priest. There, a new family educated him and taught him to be a shepherd. In 1522, he joined the Spanish army. During the war against France, he fell from a horse near the enemy camp. Stunned by the accident, he begged the Virgin Mary for help. Eventually, he found his way back to his troops, but was later accused of stealing by his comrades and bared escaped being hanged.
After learning that his real mother was dead and his father had become a Franciscan monk, John resolved to make reparation for his sins. Eager to help others, he traveled to Africa, where Christians were being persecuted.
On the advice of a Franciscan monk, John returned to Spain. One day he experienced a vision of the child Jesus calling him, "John of God" and telling him to go to Granada. In Granada, he heard John of Avila preach about the joy of those who suffer for Christ. Overcome, John became deranged and had to be institutionalized. After he recovered, he decided to take care of the ill and destitute.
John established a hospital in Granada and, through begging, provided for the care of the sick. Because of overcrowding, he built a second and then a third hospital. During a raging fire in one hospital, John single-handedly rescued patients and helped save the building. The Bishop of Tuy granted him the name "John of God" and, as acknowledgment of his service to others, gave him a religious habit to wear. John died on his 55th birthday while praying.
St. John of God,
help us to act
on the promptings
of the Holy Spirit.
Help us learn
to fight the temptation
to delay our service of God.
Help us remember
that to serve the sick
is to carry on Christ's vision.
From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives
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