Saint of the Day – 27 April – Saint John of Kathara (c770-c835) Priest, Abbot, Defender of Icons. Born in c770 at Irenopolis, Isaurian Decapolis (modern Greece) and died in c835 on the prison island of Aphousia (modern Avsa, Balikesir, Turkey) of natural causes. Also known as – John di Catari, John of Cathare, John of Constantinople.
The Roman Martyrology states [somewhat erroneously * see below]: “At Constantinople, the Abbot St John, who combated vigorously, for the worship of holy images, under Leo the Isaurian.”
At the age of nine John embraced the monastic life. His master became attached to him and took him with him to the second Council of Nicaea (787) and then again when he left for Constantinople, where he became Superior of the Monastery known as the Dalmatian. Here John was Ordained to the Priesthood.
In Lent of 805, the Emperor Nicephorus (802-811) sent John to govern the Cathar Monastery in Bithynia and in the summer of 808, his convent separated from St. Theodore the Studite, probably because John had accepted the re-establishment of the Priest Giuseppe, made famous in the ‘Mechian’ controversy.
He had been Abbot for just over ten years when the iconoclast persecution, unleashed by Leo the Armenian (813-820), removed him from his Convent (April – May 815). Taken to Constantinople before the Emperor, he was scourged, then relegated to his residence where he remained for three months. He was finally exiled and imprisoned in the fortress of Pentadactylos in the region of Lampe, near Apamea.
During this confinement, he joined, together with other iconodule Abbots and Monks, the appeals addressed to Rome, in 816 and 817, by Saint Theodore the Studila. After ten months of detention, he had to appear again, in the capital (around April 817), before the Emperor and the usurping Bishop Theodotus.
John resisted magnificently and was exiled again (June 819) to the fort of Criautoros. Early in the reign of Michael the Stutterer, Leo’s successor, John was freed (after 25 December 820) and returned to Chalcedon but was not allowed to enter the capital. Perhaps he reached his Monastery. But when the Emperor Theophilos unleashed a new offensive against the cult of images (after October 832), John tried to rally the iconophile Monks around him. Therefore, he was again exiled to the island of Afusia,, where he died on 27 April 835.
* On 27 April, the Roman Martyrology contains a praise of the Saint which needs rectification – it speaks of Leo the Isaurian instead of Leo the Armenian; moreover, in fixing the place of John’s death at Constantinople, leading many to believe that the Saint had been the Abbot of the Cathar Monastery existing in the capital of the Byzantine Empire.