saint john of sahagÚn

Saint John was a peacemaker. He defended the rights of servants and workers and put an end to many bitter and bloody feuds.Saint John of Sahagún by Mario Ferrari, Rome, Italy.

John Gonzalez was born in 1430 of a well-to-do family in San Facundo (today, Sahagún), in northwestern Spain. As a young boy he was sent to study under the Benedictines of his native town where he showed great promise for his talents and zeal. Through the good graces of the monks and the encouragement of his father, a number of church benefices were obtained for John, including nomination as a cathedral canon, while he was still a layman. When he was ordained by the bishop of Burgos in 1454 he renounced all of these benefices except that of chaplain at the church of Saint Gadea, where he devoted himself to pastoral ministry.

After his bishop died in 1456, John resigned his position at Saint Gadea and received permission to pursue further studies at Salamanca. From 1457 to 1461 he studied canon law and theology and obtained a bachelor’s degree in both fields. In 1460 John was appointed preacher of the city of Salamanca, a priest of Saint Stephen’s Church, and a member of the University College of Saint Bartholomew. He was an outstanding preacher, whose style, clarity, sincerity, and integrity attracted large crowds and effected much good. To the Duke of Alba, who complained of John’s stern denunciation of the sins of nobility and commoners alike from the pulpit, John replied: “It is becoming for Your Grace to know that 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.”

On 18 June 1463, he renounced his positions in order to join the Augustinian Order at Salamanca, where he entered the novitiate and professed vows the following year on 28 August, the feast of Saint Augustine. Already well-known to the friars before his entrance into the community, and highly respected for his learning and virtue, he was soon chosen to fill positions of responsibility in the Augustinian Order, including two terms as prior of the Salamanca monastery and delegate to every provincial chapter until his death.

As an Augustinian, John continued his preaching ministry with the same distinction and positive results as before. He was acclaimed by the people of the city as a wise and prudent confessor, an effective reconciler of feuding families, and a champion of the rights of workers. In his life as a friar, he was humble and sincere, and an example of religious observance to his brethren.

Especially characteristic of his prayer life was his great devotion to the eucharist. It is recorded that Christ appeared to him as he contemplated the sacrament. His biographer and confrere, Friar John of Seville, claims that John’s death on 11 June 1479 occurred by poisoning as a result of his bold activity as a preacher.

mmediately after his death many favors were reported through his intercession. John was beatified on 19 June 1601 and was canonized in 1690. His remains are preserved in the cathedral of Salamanca. Saint John is honored as the patron of the city and diocese of Salamanca.

The Augustinian Family celebrates his feast on 12 June.