23 October: Memorial of Saint John of Capistrano, born in 1386 at Capistrano in the Italian Province of the Abruzzi. His father was a German knight and died when John was young. His mother gave him an excellent education. St. John became a lawyer and then the governor of Perugia at the age of 26. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta, John tried to achieve peace but became a prisoner of war. During imprisonment, he encountered St. Francis of Assisi in a dream. He then resolved to embrace poverty, chastity, and obedience by joining the Franciscans. His teacher and mentor was St. Bernardine of Siena, known for bold preaching. St. John began preaching as a deacon in 1420, and then as a priest in 1425. The world at the time was in great need: one third of the population had died from the Black Plague and the Church was split in schism. Saint John made great efforts for the Church. He resolved controversy within the Franciscan order. Pope Nicholas V and his successor Callixtus III entrusted important matters to John, including the effort to reunite Eastern and Western Christendom at the Council of Florence. St. John preached to tens of thousands during his missionary travels throughout Italy and Central Europe, and established communities of Franciscan renewal. He healed the sick by making the Sign of the Cross over them. He also wrote extensively against heresies. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callixtus III to lead a crusade against the Muslim Turks. He marched at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. They won the great battle of Belgrade in 1456 and delivered Europe from the Muslims. He died a few months later from illness. St. John was canonized in 1724 and was praised by St. John Paul II for his “glorious evangelical witness,” as a priest who “gave himself with great generosity for the salvation of souls.” St. John of Capistrano is known as “the soldier saint” and is the patron of military chaplains, jurists and judges.
Ideas for celebrating this feast day at home:
- Father Junipera Serra founded the Mission of San Juan Capistrano in 1776, named for St. John, for mission work to the Indians. The Mission is famous for the tradition of the swallows returning every year. Click here to read more about the Mission. Here is a step-by-step craft to make paper swallows! The history of the swallows at the mission can be found here.
- Here is a fun craft idea for making little Franciscan friars in memory of St. John of Capistrano.
- Today’s feast day dinner should include Italian foods and a dessert such as cupcakes topped with cocktails swords to remember ‘the soldier saint’. If your children own knight or friar costumes, today’s the day to dress up!
- Watch a free video on Formed tracing the origin of the Franciscan order: “The Birth of the Franciscans.”