The Catholic Defender: The St. John of Kanty Story
St. John of Kanty is a great example of someone coming from a poor country background who worked hard to move ahead but was always blocked by others because of jealousy and envy.
St. John learned from personal experience what the Spiritual Works of Mercy encompass. The importance of forgiving others and bearing wrongs patiently helped John become more Christ like.
John's story begins in Kety, a small town in Poland near Oswiecim to Stanislaw and his wife, Anna Kanty on June 24, 1390. He was a pius child who learned the value of hard work but was given the greatest of gifts by his parents, his holy Catholic faith played a great role in his life. His early years were much like Christ's in that he was obscure growing up helping his parents. This is where he learned the greatest of values which molded St. John to be more Christ-like.
St. John at age 23 coming from humble beginnings, left the Country for the big city of Krakow to pursue his studies to become a Catholic priest. He enrolled at Jagiellonian University just outside of Krakow which at the time was Poland's Capital. Jagiellonian U was a prestigious school where Nicolas Copernicus would eventually attend some 80 years later.
The Mother of Jesus is pictured here as she called St. john to the Priesthood to follow her Son (Psalms 45:16). In 1418, St. John earned his doctorate in philosophy which gave him the baseline for the priesthood. He entered the school of Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulcher in Miechow where he studied his boyhood hero in St. Augustine.
St. John's trials would begin when he took a position at his former college, his alma mater, Jagiellonian University in 1429. The next 13 years St. John continued his studies in theology as he became the head of the Philosophy Department and finally taking over the directorship of the universities Theology Department. To this point, the humble man who came from the country had made it to the big time in the big city. He wrote several volumes on the Scripture and theological tracts which gives credence to his dedication and commitment to serving Christ through serving others.
St. John's generosity was shown through his continued compassion towards those who were most in need, helping the poor in their spiritual and physical needs even at his own expense. St. John became known as a "Catholic Defender" by defending the true faith against the heretics of his time.
Because of his growing popularity, rivals began challenging him making false accusations against him causing much dissension that St. John would be sent to the people of Olkusz in Bohemia in 1431. This was intended to be an insult, a disgrace, but the people quickly came to realize the saintly man of God that came to them.
At 41 years of age, St. John literally took a small Parish as an assistant (apprentice) Pastor. St. John took to the people he served not looking back at his own pride, he did not have the chance to defend himself against those who betrayed him at the University, so he put all that behind him.
The people were initially hostile towards him because he was seen as someone who was disgraced and sent to them so his reputation preceded his arrival. What soon began to change people's attitude was the giving of his heart to the things that helped people in their lives. St. John showed great patience in humility that took time. Perseverance is a great word for what St. John had.
After 8 long years St. John is exonerated and transferred back to Kracow. Through his persistence, he won over his rivals who ultimately begged him to stay. For the rest of his life he taught scripture at the University.
Once John was sitting down to dinner when he saw a beggar walk by outside. He jumped up immediately, ran out, and gave the beggar the food in his bowl. He asked no questions, made no demands. He just saw someone in need and helped with what he had.
He became loved by the people as he was wined and dined with nobility. He took the message of Christ to all who he met. Once, he was turned away at the door by a servant who thought John's cassock was too frayed. John didn't argue but went home, changed into a new cassock, and returned. During the meal, a servant spilled a dish on John's new clothes. "No matter, My clothes deserve some dinner, too. If it hadn't been for them I wouldn't be here at all."
He made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by the Muslims who had occupied the Holy Land.
Carrying his packed bags on his shoulders, St. John made his way to Rome from Poland four different pilgrimages to Rome, When challenged about his habits and his way of life, concerned for his health, he responded that the desert fathers lived remarkably long lives.
John taught this motto to his students, "Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause."
At the time of his death, devotion spread almost immediately as the public was made aware of his passing. To show honor, the University would take his doctoral gown to be used by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Kracow.
St. John was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, thirty years before his final canonization.
In 1676, Pope Clement XIII declared him a saint proclaiming October 23 as his feast day.
St. John would be an instrumental example to St. Pope John Paul II who drew great inspiration by the life of this great remembered Saint. In 1997, while on polgrimage to Poland, St. Pope John Paul II prayed at the grave site of St. John.
Throughout, his many years in Krakow, Karol Józef Wojtyła drew much inspiration at the grave of his patron saint of learning. It was no surprise, therefore, that during his 1997 pilgrimage to Poland, At the Saint's tomb, the beloved Pope quoted St. John: “Knowledge and wisdom seek a covenant with holiness."
"Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12
Saint John of Kanty, you were unjustly fired from your work. Please pray for those who are jobless or in danger of losing their jobs that they may find work that is fulfilling in every way. Guide us to ways to help those looking for work. Amen