SAINT JOHN OF CAPISTRANO (1385-1456), missionary priest – Patron saint of judges and military chaplains
Today, the Church honors Saint John of Capistrano, a Franciscan friar whose untiring apostolic life of preaching throughout Europe helped to strengthen Christian life and refute heresy during a time of war, schism and the after-effects of the bubonic plague.
John was born in Capistrano, Italy in 1385. His father was a former German knight who died while John was still a youth. As a result, John owed his education to his mother. At first, she had him instructed in his studies at home, and then sent him to study law at the university in the city of Perugia, where he achieved great success.
In 1412, he was appointed governor of Perugia by the king of Naples. As governor, he set himself against civic corruption and bribery. When war broke out between Perugia and the House of Malatesta from Rimini, Italy in 1416, John tried to broker a peace; but when the opponents ignored the truce, John became a prisoner of war.
During his imprisonment, John discerned a change of vocation. He had married prior to the beginning of the war, but the marriage was never consummated. With his bride’s permission, the marriage was annulled; and, at the age of thirty, he entered the Franciscan novitiate in Perugia and was ordained a priest four years later.
Friar John’s preaching attracted great throngs of people at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe and were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion.
When the Muslim Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned by the pope to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. When the crusade was actually underway, Friar John, at the age of seventy, accompanied the famous General Hunyadi throughout the campaign: he was present at the battle of Belgrade, and led the left wing of the Christian army against the Turks. After gaining an overwhelming victory, the siege was lifted.
For Friar John, however, worn out by his phenomenal efforts in accomplishing all that was asked of him, he fell easy prey to the infections bred by the refuse and carnage of battle. He died on October 23, 1456 in the friary of Ilok, in what is today Croatia.
John of Capistrano was canonized a saint on October 16, 1724 by Pope Benedict XIII. Pope St. John Paul II declared Saint John of Capistrano the patron saint of military chaplains.
We commemorate his feastday on October 23.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint John of Capistrano)
“Lord, You raised up Saint John of Capistrano to give Your people comfort in their trials. May Your Church enjoy unending peace and be secure in Your protection.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”