St. John Cantius (1390-1473)

John Cantius receives his name from his birthplace, Kety near Oswiecim in Poland. His parents were country folk of respectable position and, seeing that their son was as quick and intelligent as he was good, they sent him in due course to the University of Crakow. He took good degrees, was ordained priest, and appointed to a lectureship or chair in the university. He was known to lead a very strict life, and when he was warned to look after his health he replied by pointing out that the fathers of the desert were notably long-lived.

There is a story told that once he was dining in hall, when a famished-looking beggar passed the door. John jumped up and carried out all his commons to the man; when he returned to his seat he found his plate again full - miraculously. This, it is said, was long commemorated in the university by setting aside a special meal for a poor man every day; when dinner was ready the vice-president would cry out in Latin, "A poor man is coming", to which the president replied "Jesus Christ is coming", and the man was then served. But while he was yet alive John´s success as preacher and teacher raised up envy against him, and his rivals managed to get him removed and sent as parish priest to Olkusz. St. John turned to his new work with single hearted energy, but his parishioners did not like him and hi himself afraid of the responsibilities of his position. Nevertheless he persevered for some years, and by the time he was recalled to Cracow had so far won his people´s hearths that they accompanied him on part of the road with such grief that he said to them "This sadness does not please God. If I have done any good for you in all these years, sing a song joy."

St. John´s second appointment at the university was as professor of Sacred Scripture, and he held it to the end of his life. He left such a reputation that his doctoral gown was for long used to vest each candidate at the conferring of degrees, but his fame was not at all confined to academic circles. He was a welcome guest at tables of nobility (once his shabby cassock caused the servants to refuse him admission, so he went away and changed it. During the meal a dish was upset over the new one. " No matter," he said "my clothes deserve some dinner because to them I owe the pleasure of being here at all"), and he was known to all the poor in Crakow. His goods and money were always at the disposition of the poor students and the poor citizens of the city, and time and again they literally "cleared him out". But his needs were few; he slept on the floor, never ate meat, and when he went to Rom he walked all the way and carried his luggage on his back. He was never weary of telling his pupils to "fight all false opinions, but let your weapons be patience, sweetness and love. Roughness is bad for your own soul and spoils the best cause." Several miracles were reported of St. John, and when the news got round the city that hi was dying there was an outburst of sorrow. " Never mind about this prison which is decaying ", he said to those who were looking after him, "but think of the soul that is going to leave it." He died on Christmas eve, 1473, at age eighty-three. St. John Cantius was canonized in 1767, and his feast extended to the whole Western church. He is the only confessor not a bishop who has different hymns for Matins, Lauds and Vespers in the Roman Breviary. He is a patron of the Jagielonian University of Crakow and of the Foundation. His feast is celebrated in Poland on October 20th. On that day in the church of saint Ann where the relics of saint John Cantius are venerated the inaugural mass marking the beginning of an academic year is said On that day also special masses are said for intentions of the benefactors and deceased members of the Foundation. (See Butler´s Lives of The Saints- the Easton Press ).