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Saint John Cantius

Saint John Cantius
  • Century: 14th & 15th Century
  • Patronage: Poland, Lithuania, Universities
  • Feast Day: December 23rd

St. John Cantius was born in Kety, Poland, a small town in the Diocese of Krakow, to Stanislaw and Anna.  He attended the Krakow Academy at which he attained a bachelor, licentiate and doctorate degree.  Upon graduation, he spent the next three years preparing for the Priesthood, and was Ordained.  

Upon his ordination, he was offered a professorship at another university, and he accepted.  While there, he was offered a professorship of Sacred Scripture back at the Jagellonian University.  He accepted the offer and held that professorship until his death in 1473.  It was his knowledge of physics that he helped develop Jean Buridan’s theory of “impetus”, which anticipated the work of Galileo and Newton.  

St. John Cantius was noted throughout his life for his great sense of humor, and humility.  He subsisted only n what was strictly necessary to sustain his life, giving alms regularly to the poor.  He made one pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the desire of becoming a martyr among the Turks, and four pilgrimages to Rome, all of them on foot!  Michael Miechowita was a medieval Polish historian and the Saint’s first biographer, and described the saint’s extreme humility and charity as, “Beware disturbing, it’s not sweetly pleasing, Beware speaking ill, it’s not sweetly pleasing, Beware speaking ill – for taking back words is burdensome”.  This was the motto and model that St. John used to guide his life toward Christ.  

He died while living in retirement at his alma mater, on December 24, 1473 at the age of 83.  His remains were interred in the Church of St. Anne, Krakow, where his tomb became and remains a popular pilgrimage site.  Throughout his life various miracles were attributed to him.  St. John was beatified in Rome by Pope Clement X, and was named patron Saint of Poland.   The Roman Breviary distinguishes him with three hymns; he is the only confessor, not a bishop, who has been given this honor in the Roman Catholic Liturgy.  There are a number of churches and schools founded in Poland in his honor, and also in the United States.  Many Polish communities honor him with parishes and schools named in his honor, as far ranging as Cleveland Ohio, Detroit Michigan, Chicago Illinois, Milwaukee Wisconsin, Philadelphia and Erie Pennsylvania, Buffalo New York, and New York City.  

Practical Take Away

St. John Cantius was a very learned young man, earning a Doctorate in Sacred Scripture at an early age.  He also was very spiritual, and was ordained after earning his Doctorate.  He taught until his death, helping many to learn the faith at a much deeper level.  He also was noted for his heroic virtues of charity and humility – giving everything he made away, only keeping enough to barely feed his body.  His humility was demonstrated by his walking on foot to make four pilgrimages to Rome from Poland.  He is distinguished in the Roman Breviary.