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Saint John the Almsgiver

Saint John the Almsgiver
  • Century: 6th & 7th Century
  • Patronage: Knights Hospitaller
  • Feast Day: January 23rd

St. John the Almsgiver (also known as St. John the Merciful) was born in Amathus, Cyprus.  He was the son of Epiphanius, the governor of Cyprus.  He married at a young age and had children, but soon after both is wife and children all died and he entered the religious life.  The Patriarch Theodore died, and the Alexandrians asked that the Emperor appoint John as his successor, which he did.  One of his first acts was to make a list of over two thousand persons in need, and he took these people under his special care.  St. John referred to the poor as his “lords and masters”, because their mighty influence at the Court of the Most High.  He did not turn away anyone in need.  He also fought heresy by means of improvements in religious education.  He reorganized the system of weights and measures for the sake of the poor, and put a stop to corruption among the officials of his time.  He also increased the number of Churches in Alexandria from seven to seventy.  

When St. John was a youth, he had a vision of a beautiful maiden with a garland of olives on her head, who said that she was “Compassion”, the eldest daughter of the Great King.  This vision made a deep impression on John and now that he had the opportunity of helping on a large scale, he soon became known all over the East for his help towards the poor.  Once a person who was not really in need, applied for alms.  He was detected by the officers of the palace, but John said, “Give unto him; he may be Our Lord in disguise”.  He visited the hospitals three times every week, and he freed a great many slaves while in power.  He devoted his entire revenues of his see to the alleviation of those in need.  

When the Sassanids sacked Jerusalem in 614, John sent large supplies of food, wine, and money to fleeing Christians.  But eventually the Persians occupied Alexandria and John himself in his old age, was forced to flee to his native country where he died.  He died in Cyprus in 616 and his body was moved to Constantinople, and then Venice in 1249.  Annother relic of him was sent to Hungry and and placed in the Chaple in Buda Castle which was dedicated to him.  Now his body lies in the St. John the Merciful Chapel, in the St. Martin’s Cathedral in Bratislava, Slovakia.  

Practical Take Away

St. John the Almsgiver was born in Cyprus, and was married at a young age.  He had children, but soon both his wife and children died.  He entered the Religious life and was appointed as Patriarch of Alexandria.  One of his first acts was to make a list of the poor and took them under his special care.  He spent his entire life helping the poor, even those that came to him that were not in need.  He helped them anyway, saying that it may be Our Lord in disguise.  He also was known for increasing the number of Churchs in Alexandria from seven to seventy.