This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12 -- Saint John the Merciful

John was a sixth century bishop of Alexandria noted for his generosity with the poor.  It is said that he dedicated all the revenue from his entire diocese to alms, which is unsustainable without making the Church itself a charity case.  Fortunately, John's example of charity kept donations rolling in, allowing more and more donations to be made.  Any possible collapse of this business model was preempted by the conquest of Alexandria by the Sassanid Persians.

John's penchant for charity apparently went back to a childhood vision.  As a boy, he met a beautiful woman with olive garlands on her head.  She told him her name was Compassion, and said she was the eldest daughter of the Great King.  I guess that sort of vision would stay with you.

John, giving alms to the busted merchant

John's charity was not just for the hungry and homeless as one might imagine.  He visited the hospitals three times a week to comfort the dying.  He tried to help businessmen get enough working capital to rebuild their enterprises, as in the case of one sea captain to whom he gave a ship laden with grain.  The man sailed to Britain, which was experiencing shortages, and sold the grain at top prices. There's no mention in what I read about the man donating back the gouged profits, nor even returning the principal investment John had made in him.

John's humor about his charity was also admirable.  He was given an expensive bed covering.  He sold it and used the money to buy freedom for slaves.  The donor saw the covering in the market, bought it again, and once again gave it to Bishop John.  Once again, John sold it and gave the money to the needy.  The man repurchased it...  John's comment about the cycle: "We'll see who tires of it first."

He also had a stoic streak that might strike some as morbid.  [Not me, though.  I think it is just a good reminder.]  He ordered a grave to be partially made for himself.  Then he instructed one of his servants to announce at all state events: "My Lord, your tomb is unfinished; pray give orders for its completion, for you know not the hour when death may seize you."  It was just as well that he never finished that grave, since he booted out of Egypt prior to the Sassanid takeover and died in exile.

His remains -- relics -- are now in a chapel that bears his name in Brataslava, Slovakia.

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