St John of KentySt. John of Kenty


Patron Saint of Teachers, Students, Priests and Pilgrims

To most Catholics in this country, St. John from Kenty, otherwise know as John Kanty or John Cantius, is an obscure saint, but even in Europe, probably few people know of Pope John Paul II's deep and lifelong devotion to this professor saint.

Only thirteen miles from the Holy Father's own birthplace, John was born in the small southern Polish town of Kenty on June 24, 1390. At the age of 23, he registered for studies at the Jagiellonian University, located in the not too distant city of Krakow, then, the capitol of the Polish Kingdom. Founded 1364 by royal decree, it was the same university at which the astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus, would study almost 80 years later.

Enrolled in the Department of Liberal Arts, John became a doctor of philosophy in 1418. During the following three years, he undertook further studies in preparation for the priesthood, while supporting himself by conducting philosophy classes at the university.

Immediately following ordination, he accepted a position as rector at the prestigious school of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulcher in Miechow. That such a school would offer him this position at his relatively young age was evidence of John's exceptional intellect and talents. It was there in conducting formation classes for the young novices that he became firmly grounded in the writings and spirituality of St. Augustine.

In 1429, a position became vacant in the Philosophy Department at the Jagiellonian University. John quickly returned to Krakow for the Job, taking up residence at the university where he remained until his death. He also began studies in theology and after 13 long years of study intertwined with teaching and administrative duties as head of the Philosophy Department, he finally received his doctorate. Later, after the death of his mentor, the eminent theologian Benedykt Hesse, John assumed directorship of the university's Theology Department.

As most learned men of his day, John spent many of his free hours hand-copying manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, theological tracts, and other scholarly works. Although only 26 volumes have survived to our time, their total of over 18,000 pages is a testament to his exceptional industriousness.

During the course of his life in Krakow, John became well know among the city's residents for his generosity and compassion toward the poor, always sacrificing his own needs in order to help those less fortunate. He felt a special affinity toward needy students at the university, helping to care for their spiritual, physical, and academic needs, Whether it was in the classroom or in the pulpit, everyone knew him as a staunch defender of the faith and enemy of heretics.

By the time the Master from Kenty died on December 24, 1473, the people of Krakow already considered him a very holy man. That his opinion was wholly justified can be evidenced by the numerous favors and miracles attributed to John's intercession beginning immediately following his death. Before long, John from Kenty became known widely throughout Europe, drawing pilgrims from many countries to his tomb in the university's Collegiate Church of St. Anne.

Despite this, the process for his beatification did not begin until 150 years later. Finally, in 1676, Pope Clement XIII declared him a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, proclaiming October 20 as his feast day.

Throughout, his many years in Krakow, our philosopher Pontiff drew much inspiration at the grave of his patron saint of learning. It was no surprise, therefore, that during his 1997 pilgrimage to Poland, he once more prayed at the Saint's tomb. There, during a special gathering with professors from the Jagiellonian-both his and St. John's alma mater, he alluded to the Master from Kenty when he stated: "Knowledge and wisdom seek a covenant with holiness."

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St John of Kanty

Saint John of Kanty

Also known as : John Cantius; John Kantius; John of Kanti; John of Kenti

Memorial :
23 December
formerly 19 October
formerly 20 October
Profile :
Polish country lad. Brilliant student at the University of Cracow, Poland. Priest. Professor of theology at University of Cracow.

Falsely accused and ousted by university rivals, at age 41 he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously, and was terrified of the responsibility, but did his best. For a long time that wasn’t enough for his parishioners, but in the end he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Cracow and taught Scripture the rest of his life.

John was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, eating no meat and little of anything else. Pilgrim to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God.

At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Cracow. He was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, thirty years before his final canonization.
Born :
23 June 1390 at Kanty, Silesia, Poland
Died :
24 December 1473 at Cracow, Poland, of natural causes
Name Meaning :
God is gracious; gift of God (John)
Beatified :
28 March 1676 by Pope Clement X (cultus confirmed)
Canonized :
16 July 1767 by Pope Clement XIII
Patronage :
Lithuania
Poland
Representation:
in a professor's gown with his arm around the shoulder of a young student whose gaze he directs towards heaven
giving his garments to the poor
Readings :
Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.

-Saint John of Kanty

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