John (1430?-1479) was a peacemaker and worker for justice in society. He defended the rights of workers. A sincere and humble man, he was a noted preacher, whose devotion to the Eucharist marked all aspects of his life.
Born in Sahagún, Leon, Spain around the year 1430, John was raised in a prominent family. While he was still young, John’s father obtained for him a position which would guarantee him a substantial income.
John refused to accept this position, because he saw it as contrary to God’s way. His family was very disappointed.
Seeing the good qualities of his life, Alphonsus of Carthage, the Bishop of Burgos, ordained John a priest and gave him a position of responsibility in the administration of the Church.John did not find this work fulfilling, however. So he went to live in Salamanca, where he engaged in study and preaching. While John was ministering at the Church of Saint Bartholomew, the Duke of Alba complained when he used the pulpit to denounce not only the sins of common people, but also the sins of the nobility.
“Father, you do not know how to control your tongue,” the Duke angrily charged.
John responded, “Sir Duke, tell me why did I walk into that Pulpit: To proclaim the truth to all who would listen, or to shamefully praise you? A preacher must be prepared in his soul to speak the truth, both in denouncing and correcting shortcomings and in praising virtue, to such a point that he is willing in that cause even to face death.”
Still not satisfied with his life as a diocesan Priest, he joined the Augustinians in 1463. The Friars recognized his abilities, and chose him twice to serve as Prior (local superior) of the Salamanca Monastery. He was a delegate to every Province Chapter held during his years in the Order.
The people saw him as wise and prudent. He was able to reconcile feuding families. He championed the rights of workers. He was a man of prayer, and was particularly devoted to the Eucharist.
One of his contemporaries gave this testimony to John’s character: “If you ask me about the actions of Friar John, with regard to the poor and afflicted, exploited widows and children, the needy and the sick, I would have to say that he was naturally compelled to help them all in word and in deed. He was particularly interested in leading all to peace and harmony, and putting an end to hostility. Living in Salamanca, where the entire city was split into factions, he succeeded in preventing much bloodshed.”
Due to John’s repeated initiatives for peace, the opposing nobles of Salamanca signed in 1476 a solemn and perpetual peace treaty.
John drew his courage and strength especially from the daily celebration of the Eucharist, to which he was highly devoted.
John died in Salamanca June 11, 1479. His biographer, Friar John of Seville, believed that he was poisoned by somebody who did not like the honesty of his preaching. He was beatified in 1601 and canonized in 1690. His remains are preserved at the Cathedral of Salamanca.