Pictorial Lives of the Saints – Saint John the Almoner

Article

Saint John was married, but when his wife and two children died, he considered it a call from God to lead a perfect life. He began to give away all he possessed in alms, and became known throughout the East as the Almoner. He was appointed Patriarch of Alexandria; but before he would take possession of his see, he told his servants to go over the town and bring him a list of his lords—meaning the poor. They brought word there were seventy-five hundred of them, and these he undertook to feed every day. On Wednesday and Friday in very week he sat on a bench before the church, to hear the complaints of the needy and aggrieved; nor would he permit his servants to taste food until their wrongs were redressed. The fear of death was ever before him, and he never spoke an idle word. He turned those out of church whom he saw talking, and forbade all detractors to enter his house. He left seventy churches in Alexandria, where he had found but seven. A merchant received from Saint John five pounds’ weight of gold to buy merchandise. Having suffered shipwreck, and lost all, he had again recourse to John, who said, “Some of your merchandise was ill-gotten,” and gave him ten pounds more; but the next voyage he lost ship as well as goods. John then said, “The ship was wrongfully acquired. Take fifteen pounds of gold, buy corn with it, and put it on one of my ships.” This time the merchant was carried by the winds without his own knowledge to England, where there was a famine; and he sold the corn for its weight in tin, and on his return he found the tin changed to finest silver. Saint John died in Cyprus, his native place, about the year 619.

Reflection – What sacrifices can we make for the poor which will seem enough, when we reflect that mercy to them is our only means of repaying Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His life for us?

MLA Citation

  • John Dawson Gilmary Shea. “Saint John the Almoner”. Pictorial Lives of the Saints, 1889. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 March 2014. Web. 22 September 2017. <>