6 - 8 minutes readOctober 20 – St. John Cantius, Confessor ~ Dom Prosper Gueranger

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October 20 – St. John Cantius, Confessor

Kenty, the humble village of Silesia which witnessed the birth of St. John, owes its celebrity entirely to him. The canonization of this holy priest, who in the fifteenth century had illustrated the university of Cracow by his virtues and science, was the last hope of expiring Poland. It took place in the year 1767. Two years earlier, it was at the request of this heroic nation that Clement XIII had issued the first decree sanctioning the celebration of the feast of the sacred Heart. When enrolling John Cantius among the saints, the magnanimous Pontiff expressed in moving terms the gratitude of the Church towards that unfortunate people; and rendered to it, before shamefully forgetful Europe, a supreme homage. Five years later Poland was dismembered.

Joannes in oppido Kenty Cracoviensis diœcesis, a quo Cantii cognomen duxit, Stanislao et Anna piis et honestis parentibus natus, morum suavitate, innocentia, gravitate, ab ipsa infantia spem fecit maximæ virtutis. In universitate Crocoviensi philosophiæ ac theologiæ primum auditor, tum per omnes academiæ gradus ascendendo professor ac doctor, sacra quam annis multis tradidit doctrina, mentes audientium non illustrabat modo, sed et ad omnem pietatem inflammabat, simul docens scilicet et faciens. Sacerdos factus, nihil de litterarum studio remittens, studium auxit christianæ perfectionis. Utque passim offendi Deum maxime dolebat, sic eum sibi et populo placare oblato quotidie non sine multis lacrimis incruento sacrificio stagebat. Ilkusiensem parochiam annis aliquot egregie administravit; sed animarum periculo commotus postea dimisit, ac postulante academia ad pristinum docendi officium rediit. John was born at Kenty, a town in the diocese of Cracow; and hence his surname Cantius. His parents were pious and honorable persons, by name Stanislaus and Anna. From his very infancy, his sweetness of disposition, innocence, and gravity, gave promise of very great virtue. He studied philosophy and theology at the university of Cracow, and taking all his degrees proceeded professor and doctor. He taught sacred science for many years, enlightening the minds of his pupils and enkindling in them the flame of piety, no less by his deeds than by his words. When he was ordained priest, he relaxed nothing of his zeal for study, but increased his ardour for Christian perfection. Grieving exceedingly over the offences everywhere committed against God, he strove to make satisfaction on his own behalf and that of the people, by daily offering the unbloody Sacrifice with many tears. For several years he had charge of the parish of Ilkusi, which he administered in an exemplary manner; but fearing the responsibility of the cure of souls, he resigned his post; and, at the request of the university, resumed the professor’s chair.

Quidquid temporis ab studio supererat, partim saluti proximorum, sacris præsertim concionibus curandæ, partim orationi dabat, in qua cœlestibus quandoque visionibus et colloquiis dignatus fertur. Christi vero passione sic afficiebatur, ut in ea contemplanda totas interdum noctes duceret insomnes, ejusque causa melius recolendæ Hierosolymam peregrinatus sit: ubi et martyrii desiderio flagrans, Turcis ipsis Christum crucifixum prædicare non dubitavit. Quater etiam ad apostolorum limina pedes, atque viaria omustus sarcina Romam venit, tum ut Sedem apostolicam, cui maxime addictus fuit, honoraret, tum ut sui (sic enim aiebat) purgatorii pœnas exposita illic quotidie peccatorum veia redimeret. Quo in itinere a latronibus olim apoliatus, et numquid haberet preterea interrogatus, cum negasset, sureos deinde aliquot suo insutos pallio recordatus, fugientibus hos etiam clamans obtulit latronibus: qui viri sancti candorem simul, et largitatem admirati, etiam ablatos ultro reddidere. Alienæ famæ ne quis detraheret, descriptis beati Augustini exemplo in pariete versiculis, se atque alios perpetuo voluit admonitos. Famelicos de suo etiam obsonio satiabat: nudos autem non emptis modo, sed detractis quoque sibi vestibus et calceis operiebat, demisso ipso interim usque ad terram pallio, ne domum nudipedes redire videretur. Whatever time remained over form his studies, he devoted partly to the good of his neighbor, especially by holy preaching; partly to prayer, in which he is said to have been sometimes favored with heavenly visions and communications. He was so affected by the Passion of Christ, that he would spend whole nights without sleep in the contemplation of it; and in order the better to cultivate this devotion, he undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. While there, in his eagerness for martyrdom he boldly preached Christ crucified even to the Turks. Four times he went to Rome on foot, and carrying his own baggage, to visit the threshold of the apostles; in order to honor the apostolic See to which he was earnestly devoted, and also (as he himself used to say), to save himself from purgatory by means of the indulgences there daily to be gained. On one of these journeys he was robbed by brigands. When asked by them whether he had anything more, he replied in the negative; but afterwards remembering that he had some gold pieces sold in his cloak, he called back the robbers, who had taken to flight, and offered them the money. Astonished at the holy man’s sincerity and generosity, they restored all they had taken from him. After St. Augustine’s example, he had verses inscribed on the walls in his house, warning others, as well as himself, to respect the reputation of their neighbors. He fed the hungry from his own table; and clothed the naked not only with garments bought for the purpose, but even with his own clothes and shoes; on these occasions he would lower his cloak to the ground, so as not to be seen walking home barefoot.

Brevis illi somnus, atque humi; vestis, quæ nuditatem, cibus, qui mortem dumtaxat, arceret. Virginalem pudicitiam, velut lilium inter spinas, aspero cilicio, flagellis atque jejuniis custodivit. Quin et per annos ante obitum triginta circiter et quinque ab esu carnium perpetuo abstinuit. Tandem dierum juxta ac meritorum plenus, cum vicinæ, quam præsensit, morti se diu diligenterque præparasset, ne qua re amplius teneretur, si quid domi supererat, id omnino pauperibus distribuit. Tum Ecclesiæ sacramentis rite munitus, dissolvi jam cupiens, et esse cum Christo, pridie Nativitatis ejus, in cœlum evolavit, miraculis ante et post mortem clarus. Mortuus ad proximam academiæ ecclesiam sanctæ Annæ delatus est, ibique honorifice sepultus. Auctaque in dies populi veneratione ac frequentia inter primarios Poloniæ ac Lithuaniæ patronos religiosissime colitur. Novisque coruscans miraculis, a Clemente decimo tertio Pontifice maximo decimo septimo calendas Augusti, anno millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo septimo, solemni ritu sanctorum fastis adscriptus est. He took very little sleep, and that on the ground. His clothing was only sufficient to cover him, and his food to keep him alive. He preserved his virginal purity, like a lily among thorns, by using a rough hair-shirt, disciplines, and fasting; and for about thirty-five years before his death, he abstained entirely from flesh-meat. At length, full of days and of merits, he prepared himself long and diligently for death, which he felt drawing near; and that nothing might be a hindrance to him, he distributed all that remianed in his house to the poor. Then, strengthened with the Sacraments of the Church, and desiring to be with Christ, he passed to heaven on Christmas Eve. He worked many miracles both in life and after death. His body was carried to St. Anne’s, the church of the university, and there honorably interred. The people’s veneration for the saint, and the crowds visiting his tomb, increased daily; and he is honored as one of the chief patrons of Poland and Lithuania. As new miracles continued to be wrought, Pope Clement XIII solemnly enrolled him among the saints, on the seventeenth of the Kalends of August, in the year 1767.

The Church is ever saying to thee, and we repeat it with the same unwavering hope: “O thou, who didst never refuse assistance to any one, take in hand the cause of thy native kingdom; it is the desire of the Poles, thy fellow-countrymen, it is the prayer of even foreigners.” The treason of which thy unhappy fatherland was the victim, has not ceased to press heavily upon disorganized Europe. How many other crushing weights have since been thrown into the balance of our Lord’s justice! O John, teach us at least not to add thereto our own personal faults. It is by following thee along the path of virtue, that we shall merit to obtain pardon from heaven, and to hasten the hour of great atonements.


This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)