Saint of the Day – 3 June – St Juan Grande Román OH (1546-1600) commonly called St Juan Grande but also known as St John Grande – he adopted the name “John the Sinner,” Religious of the Hospitallers of Saint John of God, Apostle of Charity and Mercy, of the poor, sick, known as “a Prophet and Apostle of health care” – born on 6 March 1546 at Carmona, Andalusia, Spain and died on 3 June 1600 at Jerez, Spain of the plague which he became infected with whilst tending plague victims. Patronage – Diocese of Jerez de la Frontera in 1986.
Juan Grande Roman was born in Carmona, Seville, Spain, on Saturday 6 March 1546, the son of Cristobal Grande and Isabel Roman, themselves devout Christians and was Baptised by the parish priest, Andrés Muñoz. His father, a craftsman, died when John was only eleven years old.
He was given a sound Christian upbringing, firstly in his family and after the age of seven as a choir-boy in his parish.
He completed his educational formation and vocational training in Seville, learning the trade of a weaver and cloth-maker. At 17 he returned home and turned to trade, selling cloth. Shortly afterwards, his work caused him to undergo a profound spiritual crisis.
Opting for God:
He left his family and retired to the Hermitage of St Olalla, at Marchena, a town near Carmona, where he spent a whole year in retreat trying to discover his true vocation. He then decided to devote himself to God – he exchanged his clothes for a sack-cloth habit, renounced marriage and adopted the nickname of “Juan Pecador” “John the Sinner.”
At the same time he began caring for an elderly couple who had experienced difficult times. He took them into his own home and catered for all their needs, going out to beg for alms for them. He then realised that his new vocation was to serve the poor and needy.
Opting totally for the poor:
When he was only 19 years old, Juan Pecador moved to Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, to start a new life there – he personally looked after needy people, prisoners in the ‘Royal Prison,’ incurably sick and convalescents who had been left to their own devices. To help them he would beg for alms around the town.
During this time he used to frequent the church of the Franciscans, where he prayed and took spiritual direction from one of the Fathers.
Founding the “Hospital de la Candelaria” (Candlemas Hospital):
Juan Pecador attracted the admiration of the people of Jerez because of his generous life of charity.
In January 1574 a serious epidemic broke out in Jerez and he addressed a petition to the Cathedral Chapter, urging them to assist the many, sick people who had been cast out on to the streets.
He did everything he could to cater for their needs and eventually decided to found a hospital of his own, which he gradually extended. He devoted it to Mary and called it “Our Lady of Candlemas.”
Union with St John of God:
Juan Pecador devoted his whole being and all his work to God, expressed through his service to the poor, sustained by his deep life of faith and prayer.
Meanwhile, he had heard of the Institution founded by St John of God in Granada. He visited it in 1574 and decided to join it, accepting the rules and applying the same form of professed life in his own hospital.
With his new project, his witness and his exemplary self-giving he attracted new companions to join him and he trained them according to “The Statutes of John of God.” This gave him the opportunity to reach a wider area and work with other foundations in Medina Sidonia, Arcos de la Frontera, Puerto Santa Maria, San Lucar de Barrameda and Villamartin.
Reducing the number of hospitals:
The care provided to the destitute sick in Jerez left much to be desired, while small centres mushroomed. The authorities therefore decided to reduce the number of hospitals, demanding greater efficiency. But this measure struck at the interests of not a few, whose attachment to the hospitals, was not so much out of a desire to serve the sick but, because they were a source of personal profit. His path was, therefore, fraught with criticism, opposition and obstacles.
Juan Pecador’s hospital was also affected. Like all the others, he submitted his report to the authorities, explaining his way of caring for the sick in his hospital.
The Archbishop of Seville, Cardinal Rodrigo de Castro, entrusted the delicate mission of reducing the number of hospitals and raising efficiency to Juan Pecador, whom he considered to be the most appropriate and skilled person for this task, in view of his spirit, vocation and Hospitaller experience. Juan Grande set about reducing the number of hospitals boldly and lovingly and, despite the great and small difficulties he encountered, he revealed his particular sensitivity, capacity, sense of humour and great virtue.
The report on his hospital stated that the care was provided “with diligence, care and great charity, doing good and serving God our Lord, because he and his brothers of the cloth, are virtuous men and practise this charity of caring for the needy sick.”
The topical relevance of John Grande today:
In addition to an intense interior life, Juan Grande devoted himself body and soul to the external task, of seeking out, caring for and serving the poor and sick and showing his concern for the most serious and urgent issues of his day – prisoners, the convalescing sick and the incurably ill, prostitutes, rejected sick soldiers, abandoned children, etc. He truly practised all the works of mercy.
Juan Grande was a man who did good because he was good – a practical and efficient man of few words, a merciful tenant of the Gospel of Life, a Good Samaritan, an organiser of hospitals and of hospital care, a critical conscience against injustice, abuse of authority and inadequacy. In short, he was “a Prophet and Apostle of health care.”
The plague epidemic and his death:
When he was 54, living his life dedicated entirely to his community and his hospital, Jerez was stricken by a terrible outbreak of the plague. He worked everywhere, assisting the people and devoting all his strength and generosity to them but, he was eventually infected himself and died on Saturday 3 June 1600.
Beatified in 1853 by Pius IX and Canonised by St Pope John Paul 11 on 2 June 1996, he was proclaimed the Patron Saint of the new Diocese of Jerez de la Frontera in 1986.
His remains are venerated in the “Diocesan Shrine of St John Grande” in Jerez, at the hospital of the Brothers of St John of God that bears his name.
St John of God here: https://anastpaul.com/2017/03/08/saint-of-the-day-8-march-st-john-of-god/
and His miracles here: https://anastpaul.com/2019/03/08/saint-of-the-day-8-march-st-john-of-god-oh-1495-1550/