A man, who would later become one of the most recognizable of religious figures in Spain, also gained attention as a stigmatic , someone who demonstrates physical, religious signs. Saint John of God (also known as San Juan de Dios or Sao Joao de Deus) was born in 1495 and lived until 1550 , passing away on the same date as his birth. This friar and saint was born in Portugal to a formally prominent family that fell on hard times, but managed to uphold their strong religious beliefs.
As a small child, Saint John had to deal with the death of his mother. It was at this time that his father decided to join a monastic order. When St John was a young man, he found employment with a farmer, working as a shepherd. His level of strength and hard-working attitude impressed the farmer. So much so , the farmer offered John the hand of his daughter for marriage and wished that he become the heir to his property, but John refused because he had a different plan for his life. He wanted to pursue a life that was full of spirituality and praised the name of the Lord.
After a move to Spain, John became a heroic soldier under the command of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He saw action in a couple of battles, but after his military days , he started to concentrate on religious books and used a moveable-type printing press (quite new at the time) to spread the word of the Lord.
On Saint Sebastian’s Day (January 20th), John experienced a major spiritual conversion, as he listened to a sermon given by Saint John of Avila. Later on, this very same man would become the spiritual mentor that would encourage him in his wishes to enhance the lives of the poor. It is reported that he went into what seemed like a temporary state of madness that was said the work of the Lord. As a result, he was sent to a madhouse. He recovered after John of Avila paid a visit. This is when he realized that the poor were in need of his services, as they sustained a life full of ill treatment. John made it his business to serve the poor and take care of the sick.
Granada, Spain then became the home of John, as he sought out all of the people in the region that were the most in need. It didn’t take long for a loyal collection of disciples to place their faith in his leadership. He soon organized his followers into what was called the Order of Hospitallers. It is now referred to as the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God. Their main goal was to look after people battling sickness , no matter what country they were located. An honor was bestowed upon John’s group, as they are called to head the medical care of the Pope.
St John passed away on March 8th, 1550 , he was 55 years old. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690 and later became known as the patron saint of hospitals, nurses, firefighters, alcoholics, booksellers, and those battling sickness. March 8th marks the feast day of St John. He is also associated with alms, hearts, and the crown of thorns.