St. John Chrysostom was characterized by his enriching homilies. He spoke clearly and directly and he achieved great conversions. But beyond his “golden mouth,” he should be remembered for his great love for the poor, his austere life, his pastoral zeal, and his forgiveness of his enemies.
Today, we share with you some important facts about his life, his detachment from material things, and his love for the poor.
1WHO WAS HE?
St. John Chrysostom was born in Antioch (modern-day Antakya in Turkey) around the year 349. Born into a Christian family, he studied with the philosopher Andragathius and rhetoric with Libanius, a famous orator of his time.
In 374 he adopted the life of a hermit, living alone in the mountains away from everything and devoting himself entirely to contemplation, prayer, and penance. Some years later he began to have serious health problems, which forced him to return to Antioch. There, he was ordained a priest and carried out his priestly ministry, devoting himself to preaching.
He was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 397, a position in which he served as an exemplary archbishop, reforming many of the customs of the faithful and the clergy.
His flock gave him the nickname “Chrysostom,” which means “golden mouth,” because his preaching was the cause of many powerful conversions. He found a way to translate the lofty theology he knew into everyday language that people of his time — and ours — could apply in their daily lives.
He preached often against vices and abuses, always attacking sin directly. Some say that he was the most renowned orator that the Catholic Church has ever had, and that his way of preaching has never been surpassed.
St. John Chrysostom won many enemies because of his condemnation of the misuse of riches and because of the ecclesial reforms he enacted. One of the people who fomented hatred against him was the Empress Eudoxia, who in turn allied herself with Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria. The latter gathered a synod of bishops who hated the saint. Among all of them, they accused him of many serious things, thus causing his banishment.
4LOVE OF THE POOR AND DETACHMENT FROM THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD
When St. John Chrysostom was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople, he set out to teach true doctrine, with zeal and care. Fixing his attention on the luxuries and indifference of the emperors towards the poor, he wanted to lead by example. Thus, one of the first things he did when he moved into the patriarchal palace was to order the removal of all luxuries from the place.
With the elegant curtains they made clothes to cover the poor who were dying of cold. He exchanged the luxurious furniture for ordinary furniture, and with the sale of the rest, he helped many more poor people.
He dressed humbly and ate as when he was a monk, again setting the example himself, as he demanded that priests and monks should dress simply and eat moderately. He also called for modesty and urged everyone to show respect and piety inside churches.
He invited the faithful not to squander or buy things that were not necessary and with the margin of money they had left (what they saved by avoiding these excessive expenses) to help the needy. In addition, he was concerned about the catechetical formation of the faithful.
5Loved by his flock
The ordinary people always surrounded this holy priest with many tokens of appreciation and affection. When he was banished for the first time, a large crowd of people gathered in the cathedral to prevent him from leaving. He had to be sent into exile in a hidden way, but shortly later there was an earthquake in Constantinople that filled the people with terror, and all the rulers begged him to return again to the city.
Again, crowds of people turned out, this time to greet him with cheers and jubilation.
After being exiled once again for rebuking the excesses of Empress Eudoxia, he died on September 14, 404. The following year, the body of this great saint was solemnly taken to Constantinople and all the people, one more time, came out to receive him with songs and prayers.
Pope St. Pius X named St. John Chrysostom as patron saint of all Catholic preachers throughout the world.
Are they going to banish me? Where can they send me that my God is not there watching over me? Will they take away my possessions? What can they take away from me if I have already given them all away? Will they kill me? Thus I will become more like my Master Jesus, and like Him, I will give my life for my sheep …St. John Chrysostom