Saint John of God was born in 1495 in Portugal. His parents and family were very humble and virtuous people. He grew as virtuous as his parents, spending most of his younger years as a shepherd. In 1522, when Charles V ruled as the King of Spain, John enlisted in the military. He fought against the French and the Turks. During his time in the military, he came upon individuals that led him astray from his virtuous upbringing. He fell into great sin and evil. Realizing what his life had become, he made an exodus from the military in 1536.
After departing from his military service, he came upon a woman from Seville who hired him as a shepherd. At this time, John was 40 years old and began to rectify his life with God. He realized all the sin he had committed in the military had to be removed from his soul and he had to make the choice to place God back into his life, which he did. In other words, John reverted back to his Catholic faith, and again, found Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.
He discovered through a variety of means that he could find favor with God again by selling religious books and sacred images to the people of Gibraltar. He did this so well that at the age of forty-three years old, John opened up a shop in Granada. He loved books and praying with sacred images, and he helped others to appreciate these as well.
On the feast day of St. Sebastian, St. John of Avila was invited to preach in the town John lived. The preaching of St. John of Avila had such an impact on John that he began to purposely act like a madman in the hopes to humiliate himself. When St. John of Avila found this out, he asked John to stop, and he did, but he also gave spiritual direction to John as well.
In the year 1540, St. John created a home to bring in the sick and the poor. He served and sheltered them with love, care, and mercy. It was in this home that the foundations were laid out for a new religious order, the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God. After serving the disenfranchised for nearly ten years with hard work, St. John came upon a great sickness. It was his last illness and the most penitential.
As he knelt before the altar, Saint John of God entered eternal glory on March 8, 1550, exactly fifty-five years old. The archbishop buried him as the entire city of Granada followed in the burial procession. In 1690, Pope Alexander VIII canonized him a saint of the Catholic Church. He is the Patron Saint of Booksellers.
Hoever, Rev. Hugo. Lives of the Saints. Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1989.
Walsh, Michael. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.