June 12, 2021: ST. JOHN OF SAN FACUNDO
June 12, 2021: ST. JOHN OF SAN FACUNDO, CONFESSOR
[Hermit of the Order of St. Augustine]
“The mouth of the righteous man shall utter wisdom and his tongue shall speak judgment: the law of his God is in his heart.”
(Ps, xxxvi. 30-31)
O God, the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst give to blessed John thy Confessor, and extraordinary grace to reconcile those that were at variance: grant, by his merits and intercession, that we, being well-grounded in thy charity, may by no temptations be ever separated from thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
The kingdom which the Apostles have mission to establish upon earth is a reign of peace. Such was the promise plighted by Heaven to earth, on that glorious Night, wherein was given to us the Emmanuel: and on that other Night which witnessed our Lord's last Farewell at the Supper, did not the Man-God base the New Testament upon the double legacy which He bequeathed to his Church, of His Sacred Body and Blood, and of this Peace erstwhile announced by Bethlehem's Angels (St. John, xiv. 27)? Yea, a Peace unknown till then, here below; a Peace all His own, because, as He said, It proceedeth from Him, but still is not He Himself,—Gift substantial and Divine, which is no other than the Holy Ghost in Person! Like to some sacred leaven, this Peace hath been spread amongst us, during these Pentecostal days. Men and nations alike, have felt the secret influence. Man at strife with heaven and divided against himself, was indeed justly punished for his insubordination to God, by the ascendency of the senses in his revolted flesh; but lo! he now sees harmony once again established in his whole being, and his appeased God treating as a son, the obstinate rebel of former days. The sons of the Most High are to form a new people, stretching their confines unto earth's furthest bounds. Seated in the beauty of peace, to use the Prophet's expression (Isaias, xxxii. 18), this blessed race shall see all nations flocking to its midst, and shall draw down, here below, the good will of heaven, so exquisitely imaged therein.
Whereas formerly nations were constantly at strife, and wreaking vengeance in many a bloody combat, that knew no end but in the extermination of the vanquished,—baptised, they at once recognise each other as sisters, according to the filiation of the Father who is in heaven. Faithful subjects of the one Pacific King, they yield themselves up to the Holy Ghost that He may soften their manners; and if, perforce, war, the result of sin, must needs sometimes come, wofully reminding man of the consequences of the Fall, this inevitable scourge will at least, henceforth know other laws than those of might. The right of nations, the right of every Christian who rejects all that savours of pagan antiquity,—the faith of treaties, the arbitration of the Vicar of Christ, supreme controler of the consciences of kings,—these and only these, can eliminate occasions of bloody discord. Thus there were to be ages, in which the peace of God, or the truce of God, or a thousand such loving artifices of the common mother, would prevail to restrict the number of years and of days, wherein the sword might be allowed to remain unsheathed against human life; were these limits out-stepped, the transgressor's blade would be snapped in twain by the power of the spiritual sword, more dreaded, in those days, than warrior's steel. Such the potency of the Gospel's might, that even in these present days of universal decadence, respect for a disarmed foe imposes itself as law on the hottest adversary, so that after a battle, victors and vanquished meeting like brothers, lavish the same cares both corporal and spiritual, on the wounded of either camp: such the persistent energy of the supernatural leaven which has been working progressive transformation in mankind, for eighteen hundred years, and is even still acting upon those who would fain deny its power!
He whom we are honouring, to-day, is one of the most glorious instruments of this marvellous conduct of divine Providence. Heaven-born peace mingles her placid ray with the brilliant aureola that wreathes his brow. A noble son of Catholic Spain, he knew how to prepare the future glory of his country, as well as any mailed hero that laid Moor prostrate in the dust. Just as the eight hundred years' crusade that drove the crescent from Iberian soil, was closing, and the several kingdoms of this magnanimous land were blending together under one sceptre, this lowly hermit of Saint Augustine was laying within hearts, the foundation of that powerful unity which would inaugurate the glories of Spain's sixteenth century. When he first appeared, rivalries engendered too easily by a false point of honour, in a nation armed to the teeth, sullied the fair land of Spain with the blood of her sons, slain by Christian hands; his pedestal, as he now stands before us receiving the Church's homage, is formed of discord's image overturned by the disarmed.
Let us read this precious life as related in the Liturgy.
John was born at Sahagun in Spain, of a noble race; his parents after long childlessness, obtained him from God by prayers and good works. From his earliest years he gave clear signs of his after holiness of life: for he was used to climb up upon a high place, to preach to the other little boys, and to exhort them to be good and to be attentive to the public service of God, and he made it his work, to reconcile their quarrels. In his native place, he was given in charge to the monks of the Order of Saint Benedict of San Facundo to be taught the first elements of learning. While he was thus busied, his father obtained for him the benefice of the Parish, but no inducements could persuade him to keep this preferment. He became one of the household of the Bishop of Burgos, and that Prelate seeing his uprightness, took him into his counsels, ordained him Priest, and made him a Canon, heaping many kindnesses upon him. However, that he might serve God the more quietly, he left the Bishop's palace, resigned all his Church income, and betook him to a certain chapel where he celebrated the Holy Mass every day, and oftentimes preached concerning the things of God, with great profit to all that heard him.
He went later on, to Salamanca to study, and there being taken into the celebrated college of Saint Bartholomew, performed his priestly office in such sort, that he was at once constant to study, the present object of his desire, and yet assiduous to the duty of preaching. Here he had a severe illness, and vowed to embrace a sterner way of living, in fulfilment of which vow, having given to a half-naked beggar the better of the only two garments he possessed, he withdrew to a monastery of Saint Augustine then flourishing in full observance of severe discipline. Being admitted therein, he surpassed the most advanced, in obedience, in lowliness of mind, in vigils, and in prayer. The care of the refectory being confided to him, one barrel of wine, handled by him, abundantly sufficed the whole community for an entire year. After his year of noviceship, he undertook once more, by obedience, the duty of preaching. At that time owing to bloody feuds, all things human and divine at Salamanca, were in such utter confusion that murders were committed almost every hour, and the streets and squares, yea, even the very churches, flowed with the blood of all classes especially of the nobility.
It was John, who by public preaching and private conversations, softened the hearts of the citizens, so that the town was restored to peace. One of the nobles whom he had grievously offended by rebuking him for his cruelty towards his vassals, sent two knights to murder him on the road. They had already come nigh unto him, when God struck them with such terror, that they were rendered immoveable, and their horses likewise; until at length prostrating themselves before the feet of the Saint, they implored his forgivness for their crime. The said lord, likewise smitten with a sudden dread, despaired of his salvation, till he had sent for John, who finding him repentant of his deed, restored him to health. Some factious men also, who assailed him with clubs, found their arms stiffen, nor would their strength return, till they had asked his pardon for their wickedness. Whilst celebrating Mass, he was wont to behold the Lord Jesus Christ then present, and to quaff, from the Fountain-Head of the Divinity, heavenly mysteries. Oftentimes also, he could see into the secrets of men's hearts, and foretell things to come, that were quite unlooked for. He raised from the dead his brother's daughter, a child seven years old. He foretold his own death; and having prepared himself, by receiving most devoutly the Sacraments of the Church, he died. He was glorified by miracles both before and after his death. These being duly proved, Alexander VIII numbered him among the Saints.
Life of St. John of San Facundo.
[also known as St. John of Sahagun]
St. John, son of John Gonzalez of Castrillo, was a native of Sahagun, or St. Fagondez, in the kingdom of Leon in Spain. He went through the course of his studies in the schools of the Benedictin monks of St. Fagondez, and no sooner had he received the ecclesiastical tonsure than his father procured him a small benefice. The bishop of Burgos took him shortly after into his family and preferred him to a canonry, though the abbot of St. Fagondez had already put him in possession of three small benefices. The pretence for this plurality was the incompetency of the livings for the maintenance of the incumbent. John had lived always blameless in his morals, and his life had an appearance of virtue above the general bulk of Christians. But the divine grace opening his eyes, he at length discovered many errors in his conduct, and set himself seriously to reform them. The first step he took was to extort, by repeated importunity, leave from the bishop of Burgos to resign his church livings, reserving only one chapel in which he every day said mass, often preached, and catechized the ignorant. He lived in the strictest evangelical poverty and mortification, retired from the world, and began by serious consideration to take a view of himself, and of the state of his soul. He learned by experience that pious reading, meditation and prayer afford a purer joy than all the train of worldly pleasures can give. Having at length procured his bishop's consent, he repaired to Salamanca, where he applied himself during four years to the study of theology. After which term he attended the care of souls in the parish church of St. Sebastian, and frequently preached with wonderful zeal and fruit. In the meantime he lived with a virtuous canon, and inured himself to the practice of great austerities during nine years, till he was obliged to be cut for the stone. As soon as he had recovered his health after the operation, he took the religious habit among the hermits of St. Austin in Salamanca, in 1463. In his novitiate he appeared already a perfect master in a spiritual life, and made his solemn vows on the 28th of August, in 1464. He so perfectly attained the spirit of his rule, that no one was more mortified, more obedient, more humble, or more disengaged from creatures than he appeared to be in all his actions. Being commanded to employ his talents in preaching, he delivered from the pulpit the word of God with such energy and force, as discovered how much his understanding was enlightened, and his heart filled with the holy maxims of the gospel. By his pathetic sermons and private exhortations he introduced an entire reformation of manners throughout the whole city, and extinguished the most inveterate feuds and animosities, which, especially among the noblemen, produced daily bad effects; for, by the spirit of meekness with which he was endued, he had a particular talent in reconciling enemies, and in appeasing dissensions. Those whom he found full of bitterness against their neighbour he inspired with the love of peace and charity, and taught them to seek no other revenge than that of forgiving all injuries, and of overcoming enmity by benefits.
Being appointed master of the novices, he discharged that important office with extraordinary prudence and sweetness. In 1471 he was chosen prior of his convent, which was a house famous for the severity of its discipline, and for maintaining the true spirit of the Order. The saint was sensible that all advice and precepts are ineffectual when they are not supported by example, and thought it his duty to conduct his religious in the path of perfect virtue more by example than by authority. The high opinion which every one had of his sanctity contributed to give the greatest weight to his words and example. Our saint, by his purity of heart and eminent spirit of prayer, was prepared to receive of God a singular prudence and gift of discerning spirits. He was favoured with an extraordinary light in penetrating the recesses of the hearts of penitents. He heard the confessions of all who presented themselves; but was severe in deferring absolution to habitual sinners, and to ecclesiastics who did not live according to the spirit of their most holy profession. He said mass with a devotion that exceedingly edified all who were present. Without respect of persons, he reproved vice in the great ones with a liberty which often drew upon him severe persecutions. A certain duke, whom he had exasperated by his charitable exhortations to forbear provoking heaven by the oppression of his vassals, sent two assassins to murder him; but at the sight of the holy man, the ruffians were struck with remorse, and casting themselves at his feet, begged pardon for their crime. The duke falling sick, humbly testified to the saint his sincere repentance, and by his prayers and blessing recovered his health. St. John being visited with his last sickness, foretold his death, and happily slept in the Lord on the 11th of June, 1479. He was glorified by many miracles both before and after his death, beatified by Pope Clement VIII in 1601, and canonized by Alexander in 1690. Benedict XIII commanded an office in his honour to be inserted in the Roman Breviary on the 12th of June.
The example of the saints teaches us that there is nothing to be got for virtue in a life of dissipation. Worldly conversation, which turns on vanity and trifling amusements, insensibly takes off the bend of the mind towards virtue, and the constitution of the soul is hereby impaired no less than that of the body is by means destructive of its health. In retirement and by frequent serious consideration, the mind acquires more strength, more extensiveness, and more activity; and is fed with pure truths, and strongly confirmed in good principles. There is nothing more useful or necessary to weaken the impression that sensible objects make upon us. Every good Christian ought from time to time to retire from the world to be alone, and to have regular hours for pious reading and consideration. “Reflection,” says St. Bernard, “is the eye of the soul: it lets light and truth into it.” The divine wisdom says: I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart (Osee, ii. 14).
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Time After Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. VI, 1866; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. John of San Facundo, pray for us.