A Garner of Saints – Saint John Chrysostome

detail of a statue of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, New York, New YorkArticle

Born at Antioch about 344. He lost his father while still very young, but his mother took charge of his education. At the age of twenty-six he resolved to renounce the world, and after being restrained for a short while by the prayers of his mother he fled to the desert and led the life of a hermit. Having passed five or six years in this manner he was ordained by Flavian, Bishop of Antioch, who sent. him to preach. At his consecration a white dove was seen to descend upon his head. The fame of his eloquence spread far and near and he was the greatest Christian orator after Paul. The people of Antioch loved him so dearly that when he was appointed patriarch of Constantinople it was necessary to carry him off by force. His denunciation of the vices of Empress Eudoxia led to his banishment, but the people compelled the emperor to recall him. His inflexible integrity led to a second banishment and he perished, largely owing to the cruelty of his guards on 14th September 407.

The penance of Saint Chrysostome is the name of a legend which relates how a king was in the forest hunting with his daughter, and in the excitement of the chase he lost her. She came to the cave of the saint who at first took her for a demon, but afterwards admitted her, tempted by her beauty he violated her, and then, fearing discovery, he murdered her. A cavalier passing by in search of the princess asked him if he had seen her, and this he denied. In this manner he had broken all his vows, and he now determined to impose a severe penance on himself, that he would neither eat bread or drink wine, or look up to Heaven, or speak either Hebrew or Latin until an infant seven days old should open its mouth and say, “Heaven has pardoned you, go in peace.” The penance endured for seven years, and at the end of that time the king was hunting in that part of the forest when the dogs came upon what looked.like a bear. They took him home on a chain, but he refused meat and bread and kept grazing. On New Year’s day the queen gave birth to a son, and on the seventh day the saint received his absolution from the mouth of the infant. The hermit then made signs for writing materials, but as no inkhorn could be found he put the pen into his mouth and wrote in letters of gold. He then confessed his foul crimes to the king. Cavaliers were dispatched to the forest in search of the body of the princess. As they approached the cell they heard heavenly music and found the lady alive and well, for she had been spending the time with the Virgin and the angels. On her being brought back to the palace there was feasting and joy and she announced to the hermit that he was pardoned. He returned to his cell and passed the remainder of his life in the odour of sanctity. 27th January.

Attributes

  • Habit of a bishop with a book in his hand; sometimes a bee hive at his side.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint John Chrysostome”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 April 2017. Web. 26 September 2017. <>