John was born in the 7th century in Harpham, Yorkshire, England. As a young man he studied for the priesthood and monastic life under Saints Adrian and Theodore in Kent. On his return to Yorkshire, he became a monk at Whitby Abbey. He was eventually named Bishop of Hexham and then Archbishop of York.
John was known for his holiness, his gift of healing, and his love for the contemplative life. Periodically throughout the year, he would retire to an abbey he had built at Beverly and would spend time in contemplation, prayer, and service to the poor. Many of his miracles are recorded in the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History; St. John himself ordained Bede both deacon and priest.
Because of ill health, John resigned as Archbishop of York in 717 and retired to the Abbey at Beverly where he remained until his death on May 7, 721. Many miracles occurred through John’s intercession, and Beverly became a popular site of pilgrimage. Eventually the magnificent Beverly Minster was built to accommodate the great number of pilgrims to the site of St. John’s shrine. He was canonized by Pope Benedict IX in 1037.
1. Saint John was a saint among many others of his time: Bede, Adrian, Theodore, Hilda, Eata, Wilfred, Bosa. They were known to each other and no doubt supported each other as they worked in God’s vineyard. In the same way, we must develop holy friendships with others who can encourage and support us as we strive for sanctity. If an attachment to someone is bringing us down rather than raising us up to God, then it may well be time to take action to improve or perhaps even end the relationship.
2. Even though he had numerous responsibilities as abbot and archbishop, John never neglected prayer and contemplation. If we truly want our lives to be focused on Christ, we must take time every day to remember the words of the psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Stanislaus of Cracow (1079), Bishop, Martyr, Patron of Poland
Blessed Gisele (11th Century), Widow, mother of St. Emeric
image: Graham Hermon / Wikimedia Commons