Spirituality for Today – December 2009 – Volume 14, Issue 5

Saint of the Month

St. John of Matha – December 17

Most of John's life story is based on legends that circulated after his death. It is known for certain that John was born in the region of Provence in southern France, some time during the 12th century. By most historical accounts, he was the son of a gentleman. After finishing his education, John decided to seek a more contemplative life and become a hermit. His days were anything but solitary as people flocked to his cell, so he left to go to Paris, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest.

An illustration of Saint John of MathaSaint John of Matha

While celebrating his first Mass, John was struck with an idea for how he could serve his faith. He planned to ransom Christians held captive in Islamic lands. Many of these prisoners were knights and others who had left Europe to fight Muslims during the Crusades.

Joined by Felix of Valois, another future saint, John traveled to Rome for papal approval. Pope Innocent III blessed their mission, and in 1198 approved the new Order of the Most Holy Trinity. Members of the Order, call Trinitarians, traveled to Span and North Africa to free captives with the money John had collected from the French and Italian nobles.

John sometimes went along on these dangerous missions. Once, it is said, after John ransomed 120 Christians, angry Muslims attacked his boat. They slashed the sails and damaged the rudder, hoping to leave the craft adrift at sea. After replacing the sails with cloaks, John prayed for God's intervention, and the boat returned safely to Sicily. As his Order continued its work, John traveled to Rome. He spent his last two years there, dying in 1213.

Dear God,
You inspired John to offer hope to believers
who suffered in captivity.
Just as he freed these souls,
let me free myself from any prisons of the heart
and mind that keep me from truly knowing You
and the love of your son, Our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The miracle of the Trinity shows the way
for me to achieve all that You promise
to those who embrace You. Amen.

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives