Friday, October 23, 2009

St. John of Capistrano, OFM

John was born in the town of Capistrano, near L'Aquila, on 24 June 1386. His father was a baron. The family was deeply involved in local politics and rival hatred between warring factions, and John's childhood years were marked by the sad history of assassinations of many of the members of his family. John later left for Perugia, where he studied law and became a magistrate. But when Perugia was attacked by the army of Malatesta, John was imprisoned. During this time, in 1415, he matured the idea of consecrating his life to God as a Franciscan friar.

When he was 30 years old he entered the Franciscan Observant friary of Monteripido, near Perugia. During this period the Church had just gone out of one of the most troubled moments of its history. In 1417 the Council of Constance put an end to the Great Schism of the west, and Martin V was elected Pope. John became a disciple of Bernardine of Siena, one of the great reformers of the Franciscan Order. n 1430 he presented the Martinian Constitutions, which were an attempt at the genuine reform of the Order. Pope Eugene IV was highly in favour of the Observant reform and helped both Bernardine of Siena and John of Capistrano in their reform programmes.

In 1441 Capistrano was elected Vicar General of the Observants in Italy, after returning from the Holy Land, which the Pope had given to the custody of the Observants in 1439. In 1446 Pope Eugene IV gave full autonomy to the Observants with the Bull "Ut Sacra Ordinis Minorum". In the meantime John Capistrano was also working hard at reforming the Second Franciscan Order, in the observance of the Rule of St. Clare of Assisi. The Popes also chose John Capistrano as their personal ambassador and nuncio in various countries, with the aim of preaching against heretical tendencies in Europe.

John Capistrano is considered one of the great apostles of Europe. He travelled widely, to Germany, Poland, Transylvania, Moldavia, Russia. When the sultan Muhammad II entered Constantinople in 1453, Europe was in dire peril. The Pope wanted to halt the advance of the Turks, who had penetrated into Europe and were going to attack Belgrade. Thus, in 1456, John Capistrano led a crusade against the Turks. But during the battle John's health failed. He died in the friary of Ilok, in what is today Croatia, on 23 October 1456. He was canonised by Alexander VIII in 1690. Pope John Paul II declared John Capistrano as patron saint of military chaplains.
(courtesy of

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