St. John of Capistrano (1386-1456)
Legatus has a chapter in a city named for this patron saint of judges & jurists . . .
Feast Day: October 23
Patron of judges, jurists, military chaplains
Born in Capistrano, Italy, this future saint had a tragic beginning. His father died when he was quite young. However, his mother devoted much energy to the boy’s education. John went on to study law in Perugia where he was eventually appointed governor. He fought corruption and bribery and became renowned for his high ethical standards and commitment to justice.
He was thrown in jail while mediating between two warring cities. In the darkness of prison, he heard God’s call to put his gifts and his life at the service of Jesus Christ. He became a Franciscan in 1416.
As a young friar he learned theology and the art of preaching from St. Bernardine of Siena. His public ministry exploded after his ordination when he was about 40 years old. He preached tirelessly, drawing huge crowds in public squares — the most notable of which exceeded 126,000 people!
John’s work ethic and commitment to justice continued in his ministry. He worked with Bernardine to reform the Franciscan order, which had grown corrupt. He also helped St. Colette to reform the Poor Clares. He traveled to Austria to counter the Hussite heresy. The Vatican later commissioned him to oppose the antipope, Felix V. He served as legate to the French king and Austrian emperor. In time, secular leaders from across Europe sought his counsel.
Toward the end of his life, John helped lead, plan and execute a crusade to defend Europe from Turkish invaders. He led his own contingent into battle when he was over 70 years old, earning him the nickname “the solider saint.” John succeeded in battle, but died of the plague a few months later.
Mission San Juan Capistrano and the city that surrounds it were named in his honor by California’s Franciscan missionaries.
This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school age teens and college age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com