Thought for the Day – 23 December – The Memorial of St John of Kanty (1390-1473)
John was a country lad who made good in the big city and the big university of Kraków, Poland. After brilliant studies he was ordained a Priest and became a Professor of Theology. The inevitable opposition which saints encounter, led to his being ousted by rivals and sent to be a parish priest at Olkusz. An extremely humble man, he did his best but his best was not to the liking of his parishioners. Besides, he was afraid of the responsibilities of his position. But, in the end, he won his people’s hearts. After some time he returned to Kraków and taught Scripture for the remainder of his life.
John was a serious man and humble but known to all the poor of Kraków for his kindness. His goods and his money were always at their disposal and time and again, they took advantage of him. He kept only the money and clothes absolutely needed to support himself. He slept little, ate sparingly and took no meat. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by the Turks. Later, John made four subsequent pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When he was warned to look after his health, he was quick to point out that, for all their austerity, the fathers of the desert lived remarkably long lives.
The Roman Breviary distinguishes him with three hymns, he is the only confessor, not a bishop, who has been given this honour in the Roman Catholic liturgy.
John of Kanty is a typical saint. He was kind, humble and generous, he suffered opposition and led an austere, penitential life. Most Christians in an affluent society can understand all the ingredients except the last – for anything more than mild self-discipline seems reserved for athletes and ballet dancers. Christmas, at least, is a good time to reject self-indulgence.