St. John Gualbert

John Gualbert (or Gualberto) was born in Florence around the year 993. Born into a noble family, John lived a life of leisure and amusement while he trained to be a soldier. Tragedy struck while he was still a young man: His older brother Hugo was murdered, and John made it his mission to avenge the murder. His chance came on a Good Friday when he came face to face with the man he had been seeking. He drew his sword to cut him down, but the murderer threw himself on his knees and begged for mercy in the name of our Lord’s passion. As John hesitated, he was reminded of the forgiveness our Lord showed to His enemies. He sheathed his sword, embraced the man, and forgave him.

After this life-changing incident, John continued to the Benedictine monastery of San Miniato del Monte to pray. While praying before a crucifix, he was suddenly filled with divine grace, and asked the abbot for permission to enter. Despite the abbot’s misgivings over the anger of John’s parents, he allowed John to enter the order, and soon John was making great progress in virtue.

After a few years, however, John left the monastery to become a hermit at Camaldoli, later founding his own order, the Vallumbrosans, following the primitive rule of St. Benedict. He stressed charity and poverty, and for the first time a monastic order admitted lay brothers to take on the manual labor and free the choir monks for contemplation and prayer.

John never became a priest or even took minor orders. He founded several more monasteries, reformed others, and succeeded in eradicating the vice of simony from his part of the country. He died July 12, 1073, at around 80 years of age. He is considered the patron of park rangers because the land on which the original monastery was located had been barren and wild until John and his monks turned it into a veritable parkland by planting numerous trees and shrubs.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Nabor and Felix (303), Martyrs

St. Veronica of the Veil (1st Century)

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