Conversion of our Father St. John of God
“The feast day of that courageous martyr Saint Sebastian came around. At that time the city of Granada held the solemn festivities at the Hermitage of the Martyrs. That excellent and outstanding doctor of theology named Master Avila was to be the preacher. He was a man of intense holiness and learning. The preacher expounded the reward which Our Lord bestowed upon his holy martyr for having suffered such tremendous torments and the pain of a thousand deaths out of love for him, concluding that Christians must expose themselves to such a point in order to serve their Lord and rather suffer a thousand deaths than offend him. John of God, assisted by the grace of the Lord who gave force and virtue of such lively and effective words, was penetrated to the depths of his heart. No sooner had the sermon ended than John rushed outside imploring and shouting in a loud voice for God’s mercy. He leapt up and ran about wildly … until he reached his shop … he began to tear the chivalric novels and other profane books in his stock into shreds. Any book of sound doctrine and those of the lives of the saints, he gave away free to anyone who asked for them for the love of God … He stripped himself of everything and gave it all away then once more ran shouting into the streets of Granada begging the Lord’s mercy. Some honest persons who saw all this took him to where Father Avila was staying. And after comforting him he sent him away saying … ‘Go in peace with the Lord’s blessing and my own, because I am confident that the Lord will not refuse you his mercy’. Placed in the Royal Hospital as a madman, he experienced the ‘cures’ used there to heal insane patients and this experience matured his vocation; ‘May the Lord grant me that I may have my own hospital to care for the sick’. (F. de Castro, History of the life and holy works of John of God, English translation Dublin, 1986, chapters VII, VIII, IX) The experience of God’s mercy changed John of God; the memorial that we are celebrating inspires the Hospitaller Order to recall the gift and the “conversion” that calls us to daily bring new hospitality to fruition.