Saint of the Day – 3 April – Blessed John of Penna OFM (c 1193-1271) Priest, Friar of the First Order of St Francis and became a Franciscan during St Francis’ lifetime. Founder of the Order in France, Mystic and gifted with the charism of prophecy. Born in c1193 at Penna San Giovanni, Diocese of Fermo, Italy as Giovanni da Parma and died on 3 April 1271 at Recanati, Italy. Also known as Juan de Pina, Juan da Penna San Giovanni, Giovanni, Johannes. Additional Memorial – 31 October (Franciscans).
Blessed John joined the Franciscans at Recanati about 1213, after hearing Fra Filippo preach. He listened in astonishment to this sermon and afterwards, begged to be received into the order and to be vested in its habit.
The now Ordained Priest attended the Provincial Chapter of the Franciscans in Recanati . Thereafter, in 1217, he was sent to Languedoc in France, along with other Friar companions, to spread the work of the Order. It was there, that he desired his life would soon come to a close, so that he could return to God and so he sat under a tree in prayer and reflection, beseeching the Lord to take him home – but a voice responded that he still had much work to do on Earth. He felt re-ignited with apostolic zeal and founded several houses for the Order in Provence. His apostolate in France, spanned over two decades.
He returned to the Italian peninsula in 1242 after a messenger from the Father Provincial came to summon him back and he returned to live the bulk of three decades in cloistered retirement. In 1248 he settled civil unrest in his hometown after writing a pact that was used during negotiations.
He spent one full night until the next dawn in spiritual reflection until an Angel appeared and foretold, that the Priest would soon die. He offered the Priest a choice – to spend a day in Purgatory or to expiate his remaining sins through one full week of suffering – he chose the latter.
John fell ill at once with a high fever and racking pain including gout in his hands and feet. The devil also came to him in a vision with a list of all the sins he committed and said to him: “Because of these sins which thou hast committed in thought, word and deed, thou art condemned to the depths of Hell.” This depressed him to the point where he told this to his fellow Friars, who at once summoned the aged Matteo da Monte Robbiano – John’s Confessor and a close friend – who arrived not long before his death. Robbiano encouraged John and comforted him and said it was a mere trick of Satan.
John died on 3 April 1271 after his week of suffering. He had won all hearts by his exemplary life as well as by his kindly and courteous manners. Aridity and a painful illness; spiritual consolations, however, assured him that he had accomplished his purgatory on earth and when he entered his true home, his cell was illuminated with a celestial light.
He was Beatified on 20 December 1806 by Pope Pius VII (cultus confirmed).