Saint John was a peacemaker. He defended the rights of servants and workers
and put an end to many bitter and bloody feuds.
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.