Saints of the Day – John Cantius (of Kanty, Kanti, Kenty)

statue of Saint John Cantius; date and artist unknown; Saint Pölten, Niederösterreich, Austria; photographed on 13 April 2013 by Ralf Roletschek; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born June 23, 1390, at Kanti (Kenty near Oswiecim), Silesia, Poland; died December 24, 1473, in Kracow, Poland; declared the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania by Pope Clement XII in 1737; canonized by Pope Clement XIII in 1767; feast day formerly October 20.

Even as a rural boy, John showed a tendency to be a bookworm, so his parents sent him to the University of Cracow to study. He graduated, was ordained, and then was appointed lecturer in Sacred Scripture at the university.

He became famed for his teaching but was forced from his position by jealous associates and became a parish priest at Olkusz. John was not happy as a parochial vicar; nor were his parishioners entirely happy with him. He was fearful of the responsibility of the care of souls, and missed his beloved academic life. Nevertheless, his fear led him to work harder than he might have otherwise to compensate for his imagined inadequacies. When he was recalled to the university as a professor eight years later, his parishioners wept to see him go.

With relish he returned to Cracow as professor of Scripture, a position he held until his death. He was noted for his scholarship, learning, and austerities, as well as for instilling in his students the need for moderation and good manners in controversy. So great was his fame that long after his death candidates for higher degree at Cracow University were dressed in his old gown.

What also astonished his contemporaries was his complete devotion to poverty and charity. He led a life so strict and austere that acquaintances warned him to be careful of his health. He shared all his earnings with the poor. He gave away virtually everything he possessed. He needed little. He never ate meat. He used the floor for a bed. He walked everywhere – even as far as Rome for his four pilgrimages to that city – and carried his own luggage.

John lived for God and others. As he lay dying, he comforted the grieving. When he died at age 74, John was already greatly venerated. His cultus is still active in Poland today. He was so respected that his doctoral gown was used for many years to vest each candidate when a degree was conferred. Miracles were attributed to him before and after his death (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).

Saint John is pictured in a doctor’s gown, his arm around the shoulder of a young student, whose gaze he directs towards heaven (Roeder); or he may be portrayed giving his garments to the poor (White).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 August 2020. Web. 28 November 2020. <>