Today is the feast of a Portuguese saint whose secular name was João Duarte Cidade, but is now known simply as St John of God. Born in 1495, and orphaned at the age of 8, in his youth he worked as a shepherd, a soldier, and a bookseller. A sermon by the preacher St John of Avila, who was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, inspired him to devote his life to the care of the poor and sick; this would eventually lead him to found a religious order, today known as the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God. He died on this day in 1550; the order was officially recognized and approved by Pope St Pius V twenty-two years later. In Italian, they are known as the “Fatebene Fratelli – the you-do-good brothers”, and in German as the “Barmherzigen Brüder – the mercy brothers.”

John of God was declared a Saint in 1690 by Pope Alexander VIII, along with four other men, two of whom were also called John (of Capistrano and of Sahagún); this was the only canonization of that Pope’s brief reign of less than ten months. In those days, whenever a Saint was canonized, an account of his life was composed in Latin to be read at the hour of Matins in the Divine Office. The names of the authors of these accounts are mostly unknown, but whoever did the life of St John of God was a very talented Latinist indeed. Try your hand at translating this beautifully composed periodic sentence, which describes one of the Saint’s miracles.

“Cum autem maximum in regio Granatensi valetudinario excitatum fuisset incendium, Joannes impavidus prosiliit in ignem, huc illuc discurrens, quousque tum infirmos humeris exportatos, tum lectulos e fenestris projectos ab igne vindicavit, ac per dimidiam horam inter flammas, jam in immensum succrescentes, versatus, exinde divinitus incolumis, universis civibus admirantibus exivit, in schola caritatis edocens, segniorem in eum fuisse ignem qui foris usserat, quam qui intus accenderat.”

(St John of God Saves the Sick from the Fire in the Royal Hospital, by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González  (1834–1918); public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)