Pope and Martyr (d. 526)
+ John was born in Tuscany and served as a priest in Rome. Nothing else is known of his early life.
+ He was already an elderly man when he was elected bishop of Rome in 523. Despite his age and physical illness, he continued to work for unity between the Eastern and Western Churches and he convoked a series of councils to help resolve controversies surrounding the nature of grace.
+ Pope Saint John is credited with accepting the system of calculating the date of Easter that we still use today.
+ In 525, he was sent to the Emperor Justin in Constantinople as an ambassador of King Theodoric. Because John refused to accept the Arian heresy (which denied the Divinity of Christ), the mission was a failure and Pope John was arrested and imprisoned in Ravenna, where died from abuse and neglect in 526. Shortly after his death, his remains were returned to Rome and buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
+ Honored as a martyr, a contemporary epitaph on his tomb praises him as a “Victim for Christ because of a forced journey.”
On May 18, the Church also honors the memory of Saint Felix of Cantalice, a Capuchin Lay Brother who was known for his love for the poor, especially children, and his gift of preaching. He died in 1587. In 1855, Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska established a new religious sisters named for Saint Felix: the Felician Sisters.
“To those who suffer wounds in fighting his battles God opens his arms in loving, tender friendship, which is more delightful by far than anything our earthly efforts might produce. If we have any sense, we shall yearn for these open arms of God.”—Saint John of Avila
O God, who reward faithful souls
and who have consecrated this day
by the martyrdom of Pope Saint John the First,
graciously hear the prayers of your people
and grant that we, who venerate his merits,
may imitate his constancy in the faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.